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A Vanished World: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Medieval Spainby Chris Lowney
Synopses & Reviews
In a world troubled by religious strife and division, Chris Lowney's vividly written new book offers a hopeful historical reminder: Muslims, Christians, and Jews once lived together in Spain, creating a centuries-long flowering of commerce, culture, art, and architecture. Written with a narrative drive reminiscent of Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror, this new work takes us back to a medieval Iberia that prefigured the Renaissance.
In 711, a ragtag army of Muslim North Africans conquered Christian Spain and launched Western Europe's first (and to date only) Islamic state. In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella vanquished Spain's last Muslim kingdom, forced Jews to convert or emigrate, and dispatched Christopher Columbus to the New World. In the years between, Spain's Muslims, Christians, and Jews forged a golden age for each faith and distanced Spain from a Europe mired in the Dark Ages.
Medieval Spain's pioneering innovations touched every dimension of Western life: Spaniards introduced Europeans to paper manufacture and to the Hindu-Arabic numerals that supplanted the Roman numeral system. Spanish scholars translated what stood for centuries as Europe's standard medical handbook. Spain's farmers adopted irrigation technology from the Near East to nurture Europe's first crops of citrus and cotton. Spanish artisans graced luxurious homes with the fountains, gardens, and decorative tile that remain hallmarks of southern Spain's distinctive decor. Spain's religious scholars authored works that still profoundly influence their respective faiths, from the masterpiece of the Jewish kabbalah to the meditations of Sufism's greatest master to the eloquent arguments of Maimonides thathumans can successfully marry religious faith and reasoned philosophical inquiry. No less astonishing than medieval Spain's wide-ranging accomplishments was the simple fact its Muslims, Christians, and Jews often managed to live and work side by side, bestowing tolerance and freedom of worship on the religious minorities in their midst.
A Vanished World chronicles this impossibly panoramic sweep of human history and achievement, encompassing both the agony of jihad, Crusades, and Inquisition, and the glory of a multireligious, multicultural civilization that forever changed the West. One gnarled root of today's religious animosities stretches back to medieval Spain, but so does a more nourishing root of much modern religious wisdom. In a world torn by religious antagonism, Chris Lowney offers enduring lessons learned from medieval Spanish villages where Muslims, Christians, and Jews rubbed shoulders on a daily basis.
A gifted author and historian chronicles an astonishing age of culture, commerce, and scientific innovation in multicultural Spain--during the seven-century epoch before Columbus set sail in 1492.
In a world torn by religious antagonism, lessons can be learned from medieval Spanish villages where Muslims, Christians, and Jews rubbed shoulders on a daily basis--sharing irrigation canals, bathhouses, municipal ovens, and marketplaces. Medieval Spaniards introduced Europeans to paper manufacture, Hindu-Arabic numerals, philosophical classics, algebra, citrus fruits, cotton, and new medical techniques. Her mystics penned classics of Kabbalah and Sufism. More astonishing than Spain's wide-ranging accomplishments, however, was the simple fact that until the destruction of the last Muslim Kingdom by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492, Spain's Muslims, Christians, and Jews often managed to bestow tolerance and freedom of worship on the minorities in their midst.
A Vanished World chronicles this panoramic sweep of human history and achievement, encompassing both the agony of Jihad, Crusades, and Inquisition, and the glory of a multi-religious, multi-cultural civilization that forever changed the West. Lowney shows how these three controversial religious groups once lived and worked together in Spain, creating commerce, culture, art, and architecture. He reveals how these three faith groups eventually veered into a thicket of resentment and violence, and shows how our current policies and approaches might lead us down the same path.
Rising above politics, propaganda, and name-calling, A Vanished World provides a hopeful meditation on how relations among these three faith groups have gone wrong and some ideas on how to make their interactions right.
About the Author
Chris Lowney served as a Jesuit seminarian for seven years, and later served JP Morgan and Co. as a Managing Director on three continents. A Vanished World follows his acclaimed, award winning first book, Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World. Lowney has raised money for charity by trekking the 500-mile medieval pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela that figures prominently in A Vanished World.
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