A seasoned hispanist presents an overview and “progress report,” synthesizing the wealth of scholarly studies accumulating on the military-political “transfer of power in the peninsula from Muslims to Christians.” A stripped-down chronological mapping, unburdened by such dimensions as Mudejarism, settlement details, acculturation and interaction, or the dynamics of the societies involved, this is the first comprehensive and scholarly book on the classic Reconquista, though Julian Bishko contributed a much applauded sixty-page survey on “The Spanish-Portuguese Reconquest, 1095-1492” to Kenneth Setton’s multivolume History of the Crusades in 1975, unaccountably missing from Lomax’ generous reading list.
Eight chapters, twenty-five subchapters, and fifty-seven further subtitles present a variety of subjects including background, border struggles against the Ummayads and their taifa successors to 1085, containment of Almoravid counterattack to 1157, warfare and its psychological dimensions, the Almohad wars to 1212, Ferdinand and James’ “Great Reconquest,” the period 1252 to 1492, and conclusions.
Lomax reviews past historiographical battlegrounds and popular misinterpretations. As with any résumé, one may cavil on space allotment, emphasis, and minor mistakes (Abū Zayd ruled eastern Spain, not Abū Sacīd, an error I have also made; the traditional consensus that most Spanish Muslims spoke Romance, with Arabic for the literate, is no longer respectable). My main reservation would be Lomax’ excessively strong stand on the Reconquest as a deliberate strategy consciously maintained over seven centuries, with one result a uniquely intransigent Spanish character; others still separate the early border movements from the Reconquest, the latter a convergence of historical accidents with neo-Visigothic crusading spirit that transformed the nature of Islamic–Christian warfare in Spain only from the 1080s onward.
This is a valuable survey, especially as text or auxiliary reading in medieval or Spanish history courses.