Almost without exception, the established English-language scholarly and popular narratives of the history of Islamic Spain present the period of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba and the era of the taifa kings that followed it as a “Golden Age” of tolerance, ethnoreligious diversity, and cultural dynamism. In this view, the incursion first of the Almoravids, and then of the Almohads brought this “Golden Age” to an abrupt end. These two regimes, whose foreign, Berber character is inevitably emphasized, are generally described as “intolerant,” “puritanical,” and “fundamentalist,” and are blamed for undermining the culture of Islamic Spain. Based on work for his forthcoming Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain, Brian Catlos revisits eleventh- and twelfth-century al-Andalus, to re-examine the presumptions that underlie this narrative, and suggest a new reading of this period of Andalusian history.
Brian Catlos is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, a Research Associate in Humanities at the University of California Santa Cruz, and an Associate of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
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