How Seven Cen­turies of Mus­lim Rule in Spain Came to an End

Foreword Reviews - - Foresight Biography -

El­iz­a­beth Drayson, In­ter­link Books (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $20 (206pp), 978-1-56656-004-7

One of the sem­i­nal events in both Span­ish and Mus­lim history, the 1492 han­dover of Granada to Fer­di­nand and Is­abella ef­fec­tively ended seven hun­dred years of an Is­lamic king­dom in south­ern Spain. Less known is the story of the man who handed over the city, Boab­dil (also known as Abu Ab­dal­lah Muham­mad XI), and El­iz­a­beth Drayson looks at the sul­tan’s life in her well-crafted work The Moor’s Last Stand.

Though Boab­dil ruled the last Moor­ish strong­hold for only ten years, it was a truly event­ful decade. His fam­ily dy­nam­ics are heavy on in­trigue and be­trayal, as Boab­dil had to face off with his fa­ther, then his un­cle, in a series of power strug­gles. Taken pris­oner by the Span­ish in a failed at­tempt to gain ter­ri­tory, he re­claimed the Al­ham­bra only by best­ing his fam­ily ri­vals— and only af­ter promis­ing to have Granada pay trib­ute to Fer­di­nand and Is­abella.

At the same time, Catholic rulers were happy to let these fights play out, al­ly­ing with one fac­tion against an­other in a di­vide-and-con­quer ap­proach that Boab­dil saw com­ing too late. His choice not to in­ter­vene in the Span­ish con­quest of Malaga—a con­di­tion he agreed to in ex­change for his free­dom—is shown to have iso­lated his own ter­ri­tory. And though he agreed to sur­ren­der Granada only af­ter set­ting out elab­o­rate terms, the Span­ish crown care­fully rewrote those terms to en­sure the long-term loss of Mus­lim sovereignty in the south. Hum­bled and dis­graced af­ter turn­ing over his city, Boab­dil went into ex­ile, and Drayson ex­plores sev­eral pos­si­bil­i­ties for what hap­pened to him af­ter that point.

Through­out the short and well-paced book, Drayson uses writ­ings from the time and historical takes on the era to ex­plain and un­der­stand Boab­dil’s ill-fated choices and the de­cline of Mus­lim rule. The sieges, con­flicts, and in­trigue are ex­cit­ingly ren­dered, and The Moor’s Last Stand man­ages to make a rel­a­tively over­looked historical char­ac­ter into a three-di­men­sional fig­ure.

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