The Disinherited: Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492 to 1975.

Author:Lewis, James K.
Position:Book review

The Disinherited" Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492 to 1975. By Henry Kamen. New York: HarperCollins Publishers. 2007. 508 pp. $34.95.

Henry Kamen, an Oxford-educated historian residing in both Spain and the United States, has written extensively before on the Spanish Inquisition, the rise of Spain as a world power from 1492 to 1763,and a biography of King Philip II, who was a powerful sixteenth-century monarch but lost his Armada to the English navy in 1588. Kamen is well-qualified, therefore, to write a sweeping history of the forced exile of hundreds of thousands of Jews and Muslims as well as Protestants, Socialists, and Communists from Spain over the course of nearly five centuries, from 1492 to 1975. There is little doubt that the expulsions were the attempt by Spanish rulers and political leaders to create religious and social conformity among its citizenry. The exiles were driven abroad at different times for different reasons, but Kamen views their departure as a tremendous loss for Spain itself, leaving behind a cultural-wasteland without such artists as Picasso and Dali in the twentieth century and such philosophers as Barnch S inoza in the sixteenth century. Once expelled, the exiles rarely ventured to return home due to almost certain persecution and death under the Inquisition, established during Ferdinand and Isabella's reign in 1478. The Inquisition was sanctioned by the Catholic Church in Rome and lasted until the mid-1800s as a judicial tribunal whose main task was to investigate and punish heretics, and the Jews were its principal targets at first.

Oddly, Spain had tolerated the presence of Jews and Muslims since the ninth century, when Muslims occupied much of southern Spain with their own capital in Granada and Jews coexisted peaeefully with Christians and Muslims in large towns like Seville, Toledo, Barcelona and Granada. However, as Kamen points out, intense political rivalries emerged, beginning with the Reconquista of Muslim--occupied lands on the Iberian Peninsula in the early thirteenth century. The rivalries were ethnic in nature, they excluded no one. Although Spain was much more multicultural in medieval times than the rest of Europe, Jews who had been tolerated widely and had risen in status to become a significant minority with some economic and political clout were not integrated into the two main religions, Islam and Christianity. They had discreet synagogues and lived in segregated ghettos by...

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