Oprah Time: Blood and Faith – the purging of muslim Spain (1492 – 1614) by Matthew Carr

I picked up Blood and Faith on a trip to Madrid. I have a habit of picking up English language history books if I can when visiting a place. It gives you a sense of how a country wants itself to be seen. These usually vary from clumsy propaganda to insightful works.

Coming across Carr’s book surprised me as it addressed a part of Spain’s history in an unsympathetic light. It covers briefly the expulsion of Spain’s Jewish community and covers the expulsion of the Moors in greater depth.
Blood and Faith - the purging of muslim Spain (1492 - 1614) by Matthew Carr
Carr’s background as a journalist and as the son of a controversial English teacher who got involved in post-colonial politics casts a certain lens for his writing perspective. His knowledge of Spain and Islam is second to none having covered both the Islamic world and Spain extensively in books and journalism.

Carr paints a complex picture of tolerance and a cosmopolitan society interspersed with zealotry, bigotry and criminality.  The book shows how the decision to expel the Moors came about, a mix of:

  • Security concerns in terms of internal strive and alleged support of pirate raiding parties from North Africa and Turkey
  • Changes in Spanish royalty as the Hapsburg’s came to the throne. Their German background brought a ‘neoconservative’ viewpoint on Islam due the threat that the Ottoman empire posed to central Europe
  • Internal politics within the Catholic church with hawks and doves
  • External relations with the Holy See and other Catholic countries who viewed Spain as being tainted
  • Internal injustice that caused Moor dissent which in turn fuelled the paranoia of the Spanish

The book and its subject matter feels surprisingly contemporary. 17th century Spain still provides us with a good picture of the challenges and chaos that ensues trying to deport people en masse. From discovery to logistics it was a nightmare.

The issues of conservative populism and racism also feel very contemporary given political sentiment across Europe.  The expulsion of the Moors and reconquest of Spain have been cited by both Al Qaeda and Daesh to justify their actions.

If you want a book to read on Spain’s relationship with the Moors this is a well researched book, just be careful with what conclusions you chose to draw from it.

 

Impressions of Spain

It has been a while since I have travelled and got to spend more than a flying visit. I got to spend some time in Madrid.
Madrid & Toledo
Spain prior to the great recession was a country on the rise. It had invested in modern infrastructure that would shame the UK, from its buses to its high-speed trains. They are all still in place. The trains have airport-style baggage scanners prior to boarding and the buses are curiously devoid of advertising.

All of the transport system provided digital signage and mobile apps to keep passengers informed and on the move.

When you look beyond the processes and systems things start to get more interesting. QRcodes feature on advertising of all sorts. I saw an ‘erotic massage’ service on a traffic light using them on its fly poster and FMCG brands in railway station adverts. Part of the reason might be handsets in the Spanish market.

Looking around by what I saw people use on the street, in public transport and shops, the handset environment was very different to the UK. Well off people had the latest iPhone, everyone else seemed to have a mid-tier Android handset up to four years old. The likely lack of memory in the handset meant that the mobile web is a more viable option than apps.

There seemed to be a corresponding lack of m-payments a la ApplePay. Adverts for the Huawei P9 were amongst the most prominent ads that I saw running in out-of-home placements, but I only saw Huawei phones in use one, running ordering software in a restaurant.