Blood and Faith
The Purging of Muslim Spain, 1492-1614
In April 1609, King Philip III of Spain signed an edict denouncing the Muslim inhabitants of Spain as heretics, traitors, and apostates. Later that year, the entire Muslim population of Spain was given three days to leave Spanish territory, on threat of death. In a brutal and traumatic exodus, entire families and communities were obliged to abandon homes and villages where they had lived for generations, leaving their property in the hands of their Christian neighbors. In Aragon and Catalonia, Muslims were escorted by government commissioners who forced them to pay whenever they drank water from a river or took refuge in the shade. For five years the expulsion continued to grind on, until an estimated 300,000 Muslims had been removed from Spanish territory, nearly 5 percent of the total population. By 1614 Spain had successfully implemented what was then the largest act of ethnic cleansing in European history, and Muslim Spain had effectively ceased to exist.
Blood and Faith is celebrated journalist Matthew Carr’s riveting chronicle of this virtually unknown episode, set against the vivid historical backdrop of the history of Muslim Spain. Here is a remarkable window onto a little-known period in modern Europe – a rich and complex tale of competing faiths and beliefs, of cultural oppression and resistance against overwhelming odds.
Matthew Carr is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in The Observer, The Guardian, The New York Times and on BBC Radio. He is the author of The Infernal Machine: An Alternative History of Terrorism; Fortress Europe: Inside the War Against Immigration; and The Devils of Cardona.
‘In this first comprehensive appreciation in many decades of the Muslim expulsion from Spain, Blood and Faith meticulously recaptures the fateful self-mutilation of a society that might have become Europe’s first multicultural nation and offers a grim lesson about religious and racial repression in our contemporary age of contested faiths.’ –– Professor David Levering Lewis, author of God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215
‘Well-balanced and comprehensive … Blood and Faith is a splendid work of synthesis. … it is impossible to read this book without sensing its resonance in our own time. In his epilogue, “A Warning From History?” Carr’s message is stark. The current language of outrage in Europe — indulging prophecies of imminent demographic doom brought on by fertile Muslims — is heading toward the idea of an “agreeable holocaust,” which is what a 17th-century Dominican friar called Spain’s final solution to its insoluble problem. We should know better.’ –– Andrew Wheatcroft in the New York Times
‘a fascinating account of perhaps the first major episode of European ethnic cleansing and, just as importantly, the story of the beginning of the conviction that “blood” matters more than belief; a conviction that led, in the end, to modern racism. In an age when so may people, on both “sides”, believe we face an historic confrontation between Christendom and Islam, it is essential to place the relations between these two global Abrahamic religions in a wider historical framework. This book does that eloquently and judiciously.’ — Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, Princeton University
‘The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 is a well-known tragedy. Less well-known is the later expulsion in 1609 of the descendants of the Moors, who had ruled Spain for centuries. Carr (The Infernal Machine: A History of Terrorism) examines the uneasy coexistence of Christians and Muslims beginning in 1492, when Spain was united under the Christian Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. Over the next century, Christian leaders grew less and less tolerant of Iberian Muslims, requiring them to convert to Catholicism. In April 1609, this growing intolerance culminated in an edict accusing these converts, known as Moriscos, of heresy and apostasy and decreeing their expulsion. Over the next five years, an estimated 350,000 Muslims were forced to abandon their homes; many died on the journey to the ships that would take them to North Africa, and many others were terrorized, raped, robbed and killed by forces that were supposed to protect them. Carr deftly narrates the complex events leading up to this little-known but horrific episode as a warning against religious intolerance and xenophobia.’ – Publishers Weekly
‘Eloquently written and carefully researched, Blood and Faith is an important new study that synthesises much important scholarship on the moriscos, until now inaccessible to an English readership, and makes us aware of historical precedents to current ideological and cultural conflicts.’ — European History Quarterly