Friday, April 15, 2011

Spanish History

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Medieval Spain is a complex but fascinating period to research, with various cultural influences from the Visigoth Kingdom in the 5th century AD to the Arab invasions in 1711, to the final episode of the Reconquest, with the fall of Granada in 1714. I decided to put the Golden Age in the fifteenth century aside, and to concentrate on the Middle Ages in Spain before the arrival on the scene of Ferdinand and Isabella. The research on the web was quite disappointing there were not many websites on the subject, and the ones I found were not very exciting. Most of them only provided scant information, did not expand on the subject and were not very interactive.

The history of medieval Spain can be very confusing and the best way to start is by establishing a chronology, located in sites on the general history of Spain. The best one is to be found at http//, a site on Spain, its current affairs, linguistics, geography, etc, with several pages on Spanish history. These are divided into chronologies, from the first human settlements, to the current parliamentary monarchy. Medieval Spain is broken up into 4 pages the Visigothic Kingdom, Muslim Spain, the Reconquest and the Catholic Monarchs. The site offers some good basic information in a clear and simple way. Two other websites offer a diverse approach to the history of Spain. http// views Spanish history through its coinage. It is quite interesting and a good starting point, although it does not have much on medieval Spain and it is very short. http// portrays Spanish history through its artists, from the gothic period to the contemporary age. It provides illustrations and commentaries on the artists works, as well as their biographies. This website provides a good alternative way to get to know the history of Spain, and offers a link to another similar website, http//, well worth visiting.

On Medieval Spain in particular, one can find interesting texts from the Medieval Source Book such as the Egyptian historian Ibn Abd-el-Hakems account on the Islamic conquest of Spain (http// The Medieval Source Book also contains extensive bibliographies. Another academic website is that of the American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain http// It contains newsletters, archives, which include copies and commentaries of charters, and a library of Iberian Resources Online. It is a very useful, rich and well designed website for those enormously interested in the subject. There is not much on the Visigoth Kingdom in Spain. The Columbia Encyclopaedia Online gives a good summary of it (http//, but I did not find any other websites worth looking at. Most of the websites concentrate on Visigoth names, or costumes, and it is difficult to avoid re-enactors or role games sites.

On Moorish Spain, there is more material to explore. http// is the main one, referred to by many other websites. It encloses the main dates on the Arabs in Spain, and pages on the culture of Moorish Spain, mainly on the music and on the architecture. The main attraction of the site is pictures of artefacts from various museums across the world, and maps. An alternative, less European point of view on Muslim Spain and it signification in European culture is to be found at http// http// is one of the most interesting website, unfortunately in Spanish, although some of its pages are actually in English. However, the Spanish used is very simple, and could be an incentive for those who are learning the language. One of its pages, Espana Musulmana is quite attractive, divided by subjects (history, geography, literature, art, economics, etc) and containing a lot of pictures and images. For each subject there is a short text in Spanish along with pictures, and then sources relating to other web pages, either in Spanish or in English (see for example the page on music). Sites on the technological, literary and philosophical achievements of Muslim Spain are numerous, and almost all linked to the history of Islam in general. As always when the subject touches on religion, it is difficult to find objective websites. http// gives very good biographies with numerous links on Moorish philosophers, such as Averroes.

If you want to know more about specific people in Medieval Spain, there are not many websites. Even El Cid does not seem to be that popular, and a search with his name will get you more restaurants and hotels than anything on the conqueror of the Kingdom of Valencia against the Moors in the eleventh century. One of the few sites is http//, which contains links to texts, as for example the wonderful play Le Cid by the French playwright Corneille. The most complete biography on El Cid is to be found at http//

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