City of Illusions

A History of Granada

July 2021 9781787385580 360pp
16pp colour illus
Available as an eBook
EU Customers


Granada is a deceptive city, concealing a layered past and a complex character. The last Muslim capital in Western Europe, over the centuries it has captured hearts and imaginations, inspiring countless myths and legends. Yet its history reveals even more fascinating tales: secrets and follies, victory and failure, poetry and art.

City of Illusions brings together Granada’s many stories—the archaeological forger, the renegade French general, the garrotted liberal heroine, the Jewish poet who served two Muslim rulers. This colourful cast of characters takes us from the founding eleventh-century dynasty and the building of the Alhambra, through the Reconquista, French occupation and Spanish Civil War, right up to the present day.

Granada’s history has long been fought over, rewritten, idealised or buried. This rich, elegant book sets the record straight on a beautiful, elusive city, with all its quirks, mysteries, intrigues and triumphs.


‘Rodgers and Cavendish have read deeply, communicate their enthusiasm for the city very well and provide illuminating pictures of its most notable inhabitants.’ — Literary Review

City of Illusions vividly describes the light and shade of Granada’s history.’ — The Critic

‘I very much enjoyed this history, which strikes an excellent balance between erudition and engaging writing. Takes the reader on a journey.’ — Duncan Wheeler, Chair of Spanish Studies, University of Leeds

‘A delightful, highly effective, compelling and original book.’ — Germán De Patricio, Associate Professor of Spanish, Towson University

‘In City of Illusions, Rodgers and Cavendish trace the history of Granada from its age of glory under Islam through its Bourbon decadence and near destruction under the French to its modern revival as an exotic if troubled epitome of Romance — a lively telling, faithful to its history and evocative in its prose.’ — Brian Catlos, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, author of Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain

‘A superb history of one of Europe’s most fascinating cities. From the sublime beauty of the Alhambra to the horrors of the Spanish Civil War, City of Illusions is a gripping story, deftly told.’ — David Mathieson, author of Frontline Madrid: Battlefield Tours of the Spanish Civil War


Helen Rodgers is an Arabist, whose fascination for the history of the Arab world has led to over two decades of historical research across the Mediterranean region.

Stephen Cavendish is a writer, editor and historian with a passion for the medieval and modern history of Europe and the Middle East.

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