Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007
In the New English Review, Hugh Fitzgerald gives Karen Armstrong a much-need dissection:
For Karen Armstrong history does not exist. It is putty in the hands of the person who writes about history. You use it to make a point, to do good as you see it. And whatever you need to twist or omit is justified by the purity of your intentions – and Karen Armstrong always has the purest of intentions. She knows that we in the “white Western world” (as some like to call it) fail to understand others. She knows of our deep need to create “the Other” – a psychic need felt exclusively, and with great intensity, apparently, only by us, and never by anyone else....

“In 1492, the year that is often said to inaugurate the modern era…” Who says that the year 1492 inaugurated the modern era? And what does the phrase “the modern era” mean in any case? The year 1492 was chosen by this lover of symmetries and “three monotheisms” (now said to be studying Buddhism as the latest stop in her Spiritual Search) because in that year, in Spain, Jews and Christians and Muslims each acted, or was acted upon, in ways that Karen Armstrong finds useful to both misstate, and exploit. She will not mention what happened before 1492. She will not tell us about the Muslim invasion and conquest of Spain, or about the 500 years of the Reconquista, nor will she tell us when the Jews first came to Spain, long before the Muslim invasion, even before the Visigoths arrived. She will not point out that the Jews were inoffensive victims, and unlike the Muslims, never invaded, never conquered, never held the Christians of Spain in thrall, never posed a threat to the body politic.

In 1492 “the Catholic monarchs conquered Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in Europe.” What then should we call all those lands in southern and eastern Europe that the Ottomans were at that very moment busy conquering and seizing, including Constantinople, the richest, most populous, most important city in all of Christendom for 800 years (taken by the Turks on a Tuesday – May 29, 1453), and the Balkans (including the then-vast Serbian lands), and what are modern-day Albania, Greece, Rumania, Bulgaria, and they continued to press northward and westward, later seizing much of Hungary and threatening Vienna twice. Were these not parts of Europe, and was not a good deal of Europe, including what had been its most important city for a millennium, Constantinople, firmly in Muslim hands before Granada fell – and after?

But it would not do to remind readers that while the Muslim invaders and conquerors of Spain lost their last “stronghold” in Granada, other Muslim invaders and conquerors were busy at the other end of Europe, seizing lands and subjugating the native populations to the devshirme (the forced levy of Christian children) as well as to the jizyah (the tax on non-Muslims) and all the other disabilities that, wherever Muslims conquered, were imposed, as part of a clearly elaborated system, and not merely the whim a ruler, on all non-Muslims.....