The 'golden age' of Muslim Spain represents one of the most dazzling periods in European history: in its architecture, philosophy, literature, poetry and urbanism. From the middle of the eighth century to the completion of the Reconquista in 1492, the three great Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - shared towns and ports, market places and public spaces, throughout the Iberian peninsula. For much of this period, the territory of modern-day Spain was dominated by the Muslim rulers of the Province of Al-Andalus, particularly the Emirate and then Caliphate of Cordoba, when the city of Cordoba became the most culturally creative and most prosperous cosmopolitan centre in Europe. Perhaps the most remarkable feature of this co-existence was the unique intermingling of three civilizations in one. Some have even viewed multicultural Muslim Spain as a lost and tolerant arcadia. Popular interest in the period has grown also, fuelled in part by the tensions of the modern world, where many people anxiously mull the future of interfaith relations.Despite a surge of interest, until now there has been no adequate up-to-date introductory history of the full diversity of this fascinating period, or of the Islamic inheritance that infuses the culture and landscape of modern Spain.
Alex J Novikoff is Assistant Professor of History at Rhodes College, Memphis. He is the author of The Conversion of Herman the Jew: Autobiography, History and Fiction in the Twelfth Century (2010) and The Culture of Disputation in Medieval Europe (2012, forthcoming).