“History of the Moors of Spain” by M Florian
A Review by Robert Bovington
I have read a number of books relating to the Moors’ occupation of Spain including Washington Irving’s excellent “Chronicles of the Conquest of Granada” and “Tales of the Alhambra. “History of the Moors of Spain” by M.Florian is an even more comprehensive account, at times too much so. It sometimes reads like the Book of Genesis with its frequent mention of who beget whom. Despite the occasional tedium, the book is a well-constructed history. It also contains a great deal that I find interesting, particularly the description of the Alhambra and Generalife.
The book has four main sections corresponding to four distinct epochs. The first covers the period 711-750, starting from when Tariq-Ibn-Zeyad and his army crossed the Straits of Gibraltar, which marked the beginning of the Muslim domination in Spain. This period ends with the Umayyad Caliphs of Damascus being relocated in Córdoba. This first section of the book also includes events in Asia and Africa during the 6th & 7th centuries that led to the spread of Islamism prior to the occupation of Iberia.
The second section of the book includes the reigns of the Caliphs in the west: the third relates to the various small Taifa kingdoms erected from the ruins of the Caliphate of Córdoba. The fourth part covers the prominent events in the lives of the rulers of the Kingdom of Granada. It culminates with the final expulsion of the Moors from Spain and, of course, includes the fall of Granada in 1492.
French author M.Florian wrote the book in the 18th century but my Kindle version was published in 1910 and translated into English by an American lady whose name I haven’t been able to ascertain. Anyway, she did a good job and, all in all, this book is comprehensive history of the Moors in Spain.
Roquetas de Mar June 2011
Castilian Days by John Hay
A Review by Robert Bovington
I enjoyed this book. Unlike many travel books about Spain, it is not all about cathedrals, churches and castles.
American John Milton Hay was more famous as a statesman than as an author – amongst other things he was the 37th Secretary of State. He had also performed the role of private secretary to Abraham Lincoln and one of his publications “Abraham Lincoln: A History” which he co-wrote with John G. Nicolay was published in 1890.
“Castilian Days” was first published in 1875, though my copy was the Holiday Edition of 1903, recently launched in Kindle e-book format by Project Gutenberg.
The book is a good balance between people and places. The first part of the book is dedicated to the habits and customs of the ordinary people of Castile in the late 19th century. This is followed by a vivid description of the bullfight – a bit to vivid for my liking. Hay describes all the gory details, which includes horses being gored to death – old horses that have been worked to (near) death in the intense heat of summer and the bitter cold of winter. So, if you are squeamish, miss that chapter.
The remainder of the book is less morbid. These final chapters are mostly about some of the “must see” sights of this area of Spain – Madrid’s Prado, Segovia, Toledo, the Escorial and Cervantes hometown of Alcalá de Henares.
The author does include some background history of the places he visits and provides the reader with a balanced account of these locations – sometimes with enthusiasm but with the occasional averse comment.
There is also a chapter about holidays and fiestas.
Unless I am mistaken, there is no mention of the year in which John Hay undertook his journey around Castile. It must have been between 1873 and 1874 because he writes of the country being a republic. Despite the fact that the book is set over a century ago, many of the descriptions applied to the Spanish people and places, in my mind, still hold true today.