The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain Paperback – 3 Jul 2003
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"Splendid.... An affecting portrait of a lost Iberian world.... The beauty of Menocal's work lies in her craftsmanship and patience, in her eye for the illuminating anecdote, for the stray life that catches a time and its wonder."
"A seductively written history.... Menocal displays a lavish sense of place that should be the envy of many novelists."
"It is no exaggeration to say that what we presumptuously call Western' culture is owed in large measure to the Andalusian enlightenment.... This book partly restores to us a world we have lost."
"Engaging and accessible.... This study of medieval Spain shows that a powerful Islamic society and its committed Christian opponents were once capable of contending in arms for mastery of a rich territory, without losing their sense of mutual respect.... It is a valuable contribution."
* How Muslims, Jews and Christians created a culture of tolerance in medieval Spain.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Menocal's approach aims to restore Spanish Islam's blemished reputation. Muslim Spain has endured a scathing censure imposed by "victorious" Christian Europe. In the Christian view, the Reconquista of Spain freed a population from a Muslim yoke. The European invasion of the Western Hemisphere carried that myth across the Atlantic while strengthening the crusading attitude of the conquistadores. Menocal uses romantic poetry, the advancement of selected scholars to high posts under the caliphate, and the literacy of the Muslim and Jewish communities as evidence of high, positive interaction. Even the Christians, normally disdainful of literacy, science and philosophy, joined the chorus of common interests.
Weaving her tale around the Cordovan Umayyad caliphs founded by exiled prince Abn al-Rahmad, she traces the building programs, internal disputes among the Islamic schisms arising along the Mediterranean, and the challenges posed by intruders from the north. For Menocal, the binding force across Islamic Spain was language. Arabic became a lingua franca with the power to transcend religious dogma and jurisdictional disputes. Jews and Christians alike became fluent in this imposed language due to its expressive power. Arabic was also used in the Eastern Mediterranean to recover and spread lost texts of the Greek scholars.Read more ›
I loved the characters - she really brings them to life, and the history of some of the great buildings (like the mosque of Cordoba & the Alhambra) was fascinating. Also the way in which this area of Spain was so influential in the re-discovery of ancient philosophy, maths, astronomy & more was a revelation to me.
I read this book whilst in Granada and it really brought the history of the place to life.
Professor Menocal has set herself the task of enlightening us about the cultural diversity, and artistic, architectural and intellectual excellence of the era, based as it was on a remarkable level of religious tolerance. Her regret at the loss of this religious toleration is the underlying point of the book. She writes as if expecting this picture of Islamic Spain to come as a revelation to her readers, which surely underestimates the historical awareness of the sort of person who is likely to pick up the book or click on it on this website.
She takes an episodic approach, analysing selected but mostly unlinked people and incidents which provide evidence either for her evocation of the period, or for her explanation of its decline in the face of rising religious intolerance. I was surprised that she did not make more of the effect of the Crusades in the latter context - stirring up religious militancy on all sides.
There's no doubt that she effectively expresses her passion for her theme, and her examples do initially make the point about this era in Spanish history. The problem is that the approach produces a degree of incoherence which makes the book increasingly woolly as it goes on and creates a need for her to keep repeating the basic message in order to remind us of it.
It's a nice idea - to get away from the traditional narrative of the history of the country and the standard recitation of the culture, but it ends up being rather unsatisfying.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A wonderful book in content and style. It demolishes the argument that Islam is in inherit conflict with Jews or Christians. Read morePublished 3 months ago by ramiz nadhmi
Perhaps the best book I have read on the subject. Erudite, insightful and empathetic. Highly recommended.Published 15 months ago by Amber
This is surprisingly relevant to today. It describes how the three religions coexisted in medieval Andalucía. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Antonio-iznájar
Thank you for the excellent service. All the particulars of agreement have been honoured.Published 19 months ago by Abdul Hamid
Very poetic, historically insightful. Definitely worth reading.Published 21 months ago by Miguel Gonzalez
An extraordinary book in every way: well written, engaging, lucid and informative about times and events not generally familiar to a 21st-century reader. Read morePublished on 9 Jun. 2014 by Anonyme
I've long wanted to visit the Alhambra, one of the greatest remaining traces of the Islamic culture that once flourished in Spain. Read morePublished on 2 May 2014 by C. Ball
If only more people realised the importance of the Golden Age between 700AD and the fourteenth century. I thank Maria Rosa Menocal for her explicit research. Read morePublished on 30 July 2013 by Enlightened