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The Medieval Crown of Aragon: A Short History (Clarendon Paperbacks) Paperback – 5 Sep 1991

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`Professor Bisson has multiplied his claims upon our gratitude by presenting us with The Medieval Crown of Aragon ... a masterly synthesis of recent research which deserves a warm welcome.' English Historical Review

`An excellent, succinct and readable history of the Medieval Crown of Aragon which takes on board all recent research, particularly of Catalan scholars.' British Bulletin of Publications on Latin America, The Caribbean, Portugal and Spain

`will be welcome by all interested in the history of medieval Spain ... successful both as an introductory survey ans as an essay of synthesis' American Historical Review

`perceptive and scholarly ... a most welcome addition to the rather scanty historical literature in English on medieval Spain' Journal of Medieval History

`We need an introductory history of the Crown of Aragon and Professor Bisson is a good choice to write it for us.' History

`excellent and useful survey ... work which, with a long and intelligently descriptive bibliography at the end, will serve as an introduction to its complex and difficult subject for many years to come.' David J. Wasserstein, Mediterranean Historical Review

From the Back Cover

This book is the first in English in more than half a century to survey the history of a great Mediterranean federation whose homelands were Catalonia and Aragon. Based on recent research, it seeks to convey a sense of the energy, drama, and colour of a creative and expansionist people between the twelfth and the fifteenth century. T.N. Bisson lays due stress on individual achievement and personality, while at the same time providing a balanced survey of political and dynastic evolution, institutional foundations, economic and cultural matters, and the socio-economic weakness which led eventually to a crisis in the federated realms in the late Middle Ages.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x86dfb234) out of 5 stars 1 review
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x86dfc738) out of 5 stars The Rise and Fall of the Catalonian Empire 14 April 2014
By Osgood Schlater - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Using Professor Bisson’s short history to bone up on Peter II, the King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, at the beginning of the Albigensian Crusade, I was intrigued to learn that Peter’s father and his son far surpassed him, both in deeds and in vision. Moreover, during the reigns of his son and grandson, the Aragon/Catalonian federation became a maritime power in the Mediterranean, and extended its hegemony to Majorca, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica; and southern Italy, where Catalan became a lingua franca. I had no idea of the scope of this dynasty’s economic and military importance.

The author is at pains to emphasize the inequality of the partnership: Catalonia was more heavily populated, more prosperous, and more self-sufficient than Aragon. Its chief city, Barcelona, was a seaport naturally suited for overseas trade, where as Aragon was landlocked. This imbalance is why Bisson calls the scions of the dynasty count-kings, emphasizing the supremacy of County over Kingdom. Of the four generations of monarchs beginning with James I who drove this remarkable expansion, Bisson says, “there wasn’t a bad apple among them.”

Bisson devotes equal time to the social, economic and cultural forces that helped forge the federation, fed its dynamism and helped plant the seeds for its fall. He delves into the trends in the manufacture of woolens; the monopolization of Mediterranean trade, and even the fluctuation in the value of the coinage, such as croats and florins. The Muslim/Christian clashes foreshadow those of today, and he relates how both religions jockeyed to win the hearts and minds of the population. Papal politics interlocked with those of the secular rulers; the last of the Avignon Popes, Benedict XIII, was Aragonese. When the French tried to depose him after the Council of Pisa, Catalonian troops protected him for five years until he finally fled to Rousillon, a fiefdom of Aragon..

The book simplifies a very turbulent, complex epoch, and Bisson mercifully provides five different genealogical tables and seven different maps that help clarify the various political relationships. For historians of Spain, this is a necessary reference handbook. For more casual readers, it is an Aladdin’s lamp that illuminates a vast treasure trove of undreamed adventure by the Counts of Barcelona and Provence, also called the Kings of Aragon, whose world views had no horizon.
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