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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume III: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

XII: The Spanish and Portuguese reconquest, 1095-1492,   pp. 396-456 PDF (13.3 MB)

Page 455

Estopiñán, at Mers-el-Kebir, Oran, Bugia, and Algiers in 1505—15
10 under the direction of the cardinal-regent Francis Jiménez de Cisneros
and the conquistador Peter Navarro, and in 1535 the capture of Tunis by Charles
V—represent the continuing thrust of the motives and objectives of
the medieval reconquest, the plan to acquire new Granadas in the Maghrib.
 Thus 1492 marks a beginning as well as an end. Yet more fundamental still
is the continuing impact upon Spaniards and Portuguese of convictions, values,
institutions, practices, and goals shaped in the medieval centuries and surviving
into the new age of overseas expansion after 1492 for both Iberian peoples.
A distinguished authority has declared the anti-Moorish struggle of the Middle
Ages the key to Spanish (and, we may add, Portuguese) history insofar as
it gave it a unique character forged in the confrontation, military and cultural,
with the alien dynamisms of Islam and Africa. The persistence for so long
of an open frontier of war and conquest runs centrally through medieval Iberian
experience, imposing its sense of danger and struggle, and its prizes of
prestige, power, booty, and land as the rewards of individual and collective
effort. To it can be traced in great measure such characteristics of medieval
Iberian society as its high degree of mobility, the widespread preference
for pastoralism over sedentary crop-farming, the predominance of walled towns
and castles over dispersed village communities, the familiarity with techniques
of planting cities and castles, churches and monasteries, in one countryside
after another. No less surely the reconquest deepened religious feeling,
the sense of championship of the faith on the rim of Christendom, and here
the convergence with the crusade is strong. 
 From 1095 on the Iberian reconquest was unmistakably, with papal collaboration,
the western theater of the crusading movement, holding firm the door of Christendom
against the mighty blows of African Islam, tying down for centuries forces
that might well have retarded, if not shattered, the emergent civilization
of the awakening medieval west. Yet at the same time the Iberian reconquest
was an undeniably autochthonous process, a testing ground of institutions
and ideas, of nation-building and colonization, that like the other important
elements of medieval Iberian history affected all three of its constituent
religio-ethnic communities, not only Christians and Moors but—an aspect
historians have yet to explore—the Jews, who appear as royal officials
and administrators, financiers and redeemers of captives, combat warriors
and colonists, and intermediaries of cultural exchange. Christians knew the
Moor as a fierce, implacable foe but realized that, once the question of
political supremacy was 

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