Trends and Tendencies in Recent Scholarship on Spanish Muslims and Moriscos in the Sixteenth Century

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 11:20 AM
Room 101 (Hynes Convention Center)
A. Katie Harris , University of California at Davis, Davis, CA
2011’s commemoration of the entrance of Islam into the Iberian Peninsula some 1300 years ago is closely linked to other, similarly charged anniversaries: the fall of the Muslim kingdom of Granada in 1492 to the forces of Ferdinand and Isabel, the “Catholic Monarchs,” and the expulsion of Spain’s Moriscos, the nominally Christian descendents of Spanish Muslims, between 1609 and 1614. During the decades that intervened between these two epoch-making events, relations between the Morisco and “Old Christian” populations were often difficult, even violent. While the events and developments of Spain’s Morisco sixteenth century have long been the subject of historical inquiry, the past few decades have seen a notable expansion in scholarly attention, as new generations of researchers have brought new questions and approaches to bear on the Moriscos and their world. In this paper, I explore the overarching trends and debates within this new body of literature. My analysis centers on two main points of emphasis. First, I examine the recent historiography in relation to central themes and grand narratives at work in Spanish history during the twentieth century (and to a lesser degree, previous periods). I devote particular attention to the implications of the new scholarship for concepts of convivencia, or the coexistence and cultural interchange among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in medieval Iberia, and the growth of religious intolerance in early modern Spain. I also consider the relationship of the new scholarship on the Moriscos to the classic “decline paradigm” of modern Spanish history. Second, I survey the key themes and interpretive tendencies of the recent historiography. My analysis focuses on the tension between resistance, dissimilation, and assimilation, and on the homogeneity or heterogeneity of the Morisco population(s).