One of the more interesting bits of European history, at least from my perspective, is the end of the Moorish occupation of the Iberian peninsula in the 15th Century. I really wish it were a Caliphate until it collapsed in 1492, because “Caliphate” is a really cool word, perhaps my favorite name for an autocratic state, but I’ll have to live with my disappointment.
So we all know about how when the Christians retook Spain, it led to a new era of Spanish expansionism and control of the European power base, and how Ferdinand and Isabella remain celebrated historical figures to this day. Happy Columbus Day, by the way.
Anyway, the ouster of the Moors left the Spanish Jewry in an awkward position, as wars between Christians and Muslims have done for centuries before and since. The most celebrated example of such harsh treatment is the Spanish Inquisition.
Now, some say that the persecution of the Jews in medieval Spain is the result of a power-hungry Church bending the ear of a power-hungry monarch, that the Church’s motives were religious or political in nature. I have a different theory.
I believe that the economic void left when the Moors were removed from power is historically undervalued. In my view, the most important cause of the Spanish Inquisition was the need of a fledgling and cash-strapped monarchy to 1) eliminate a potential economic rival in Jewish merchants and bankers and 2) appropriate the personal capital for royal and Church use, particularly in the absence of trade with the Moors.
It seems like a stretch, I know, to attribute such atrocities—raids on Jewish neighborhoods, torture, forced conversions, imprisonment—to economic reasons alone, but consider this:
It’s like the Moor money we come across, the more pogroms we see.
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