What ELSE was the big story in 1492?

From Europe to India, a major geopolitical event in 1492 had everyone talking –  and it had nothing to do with Columbus. Columbus was just some explorer who had discovered some islands somewhere. But the really big news was that, after nearly 800 years, the aggressive Christians had finally kicked the more cultured Muslims out of Spain.

The Great Mosque of Cordoba

Granada was conquered. Cordoba and Seville, the greatest centers of learning in Europe, where thousands of Christian scholars had traveled surreptitiously, and from which the European Renaissance had been born, were now turned into fresh hunting grounds for the Spanish Inquisition. Decrees ordered Muslims and Jews to convert or leave. Tens of thousands chose the former, hundreds of thousands the latter. Of those who converted and stayed, thousands were subsequently executed by the Inquisition under suspicion of insincerity; initially over 90% of the executions were of Jews, because the moriscos were too well-connected and too important to the government and economy to be maltreated. But after some decades the focus turned to moriscos (and Protestants), and finally all the moriscos were expelled without being allowed to take money or jewelry or anything more than they could carry.

The most advanced state in Europe was destroyed, and neither it nor the rest of Spain has ever fully recovered.

An ironic element is that, after 800 years of Islam in Spain, the Christians “were not actually expelling Arabs nor were they expelling Berbers. The huge majority of the people that were being expelled, by blood, by DNA if you will, were as Iberian as their Christian cousins in the North who were kicking them out of Peninsula”. This from British historian Professor Dwight Reynolds in a 2005 documentary.

The Muslims and Jews who were expelled took the keys to their front doors with them. Fifteen generations later, around the Mediterranean, many of those keys are still in the possession of the original families.

10 comments on “What ELSE was the big story in 1492?

  1. Then again, this in a lot of ways could be seen as poetic justice or karma, considering that for the time period when the Muslims were taking over Iberia, they did pretty much the same thing to the Christian inhabitants. The choices were conversion or suffer as second class citizens at best. Every church was slowly banned and turned into a mosque, except for a few tiny ones that were in the shadows of mosques. One can say that the Muslims were the most cultured in Iberia, but that would be ignoring the fact that the Romans were far more Cultured than the Muslims, and the Muslims destroyed all Roman/Christian culture in their area, and so drained the remaining Christians with constant attacks that the Christians couldn’t rebuild their culture.

    It was the memory of their own destroyed culture, and the suffering of their religious “kinsman” that drove the Iberian Christians in their rage against the Iberian Muslims.


    • I disagree that Muslims treated Christians (or Jews) as badly as Christians treated Muslims (or Jews). Jews and Muslims were always compatible (until the creation of Israel). Muslims consider Christians and Jews “People of the Book” like themselves. Muslims consider Jesus and Moses prophets like Muhammad, which is why many Muslim children are given their names in Arabic: Isa and Musa.

      The “second-class citizens” issue is not all bad: they didn’t pay the religious tax, but they paid other tax. They weren’t allowed to serve in the army, but they couldn’t be conscripted either. If the number of churches declined, it would have been because of a decline in the number of worshipers. The Qur’an quotes God as saying “Let there be no compulsion in religion”, and that at least limits the amount of compulsion!

      Undoubtedly there has been friction between different groups at different times – but, regarding governmental policy, there is nothing that I know of in Muslim history to compare with either the Spanish Inquisition or the Nazi’s “Final Solution” – or the Jewish genocide in the Promised Land 3,500 years ago, or the Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestinians today.


      • I hear what you’re saying, but I fear you’ve been getting your history of the situation from the “Official” party line. To find the truth, one often has to look deeper, to the secret and hidden histories.

        I wouldn’t say that Muslims and Jews have gotten along. In truth, from near the beginning they have been at odds. Mohammed, it is told in the Koran, fell upon a Jewish merchant that had done business with his group for years, and killed him, for no other reason than he was Jewish. (We must also remember that Mohammed is the Perfect Man, and all his actions are good and to be emulated). They are people’s of the book, along with Christians, but one must remember that these are a tribalistic people, and as far as they are concerned the Jews are children of the tribe that stole their birthright from Abraham. Their issue with them started long before the New Israel.

        Sadly, there is a common thread in history to keep areas separate, Europe to Europe, Middle East to the Middle East, and whenever the twain shall meet, well, it’s the “Christians” who were the bad guys. Now, I hate the Christians and what they did, but I must admit that they never created vast armies of forcibly converted from slaves, stolen from the children of Christians and Jews and raised from youth to be fanatical Islamic soldiers (I speak of the Jensarri, I believe they were called.) We rarely see where they were connected. Yes, “Christian” Europe didn’t always have the cultural achievements of other places, but we have to remember that in the North of Europe, the bloody wars of conversion were going on, and in the South of Europe, there was a near constant battle for centuries with Muslim pirates from North Africa, and then the attempts to defend the Byzantine Empire, before it fell, and lastly the constant invasions and border wars with the Muslim empires that constantly tried to invade and convert. In reality, it was as much the perfection of things like gunpowder and guns, as well as other military advancements, that permitted Europeans to begin building its current culture after centuries of fighting a holding battle against Islamic forces and their own internal national wars.

        It is difficult to build great culture when one is constantly fighting a defensive war against an enemy that has you surrounded on three sides, and infighting surrounding you. And this is of course not counting the other invasions that plagued Europe.

        And one can hardly deny that the Muslims in Iberia did destroy what Roman Christian culture and such that they found, or converted it to their own use in a few limited cases for a time. Also, the history of Iberia during the Muslim holding was one of progressively more aggressive and hardline Muslim take overs. While the initial conquest and conversion might have been more moderate to the locals, by the time that Ferdinand and Isabella came about, there had been naught but centuries of war with more and more virulent and fanatical Muslims. After all Iberia was down to about three small Christian kingdoms by then, which were hard pressed to survive. It was only the union of the Kingdoms under Ferdinand and Isabella (horrible people though they were) that gave them the combination of power needed.


  2. wobsy says:

    Columbus did not discover any islands, he discovered the route West to islands which were already inhabited. Be very careful what you mean by “discover”. If someone rapes your wife, steals your land, puts your children to slavery and imposes his religion upon you, will he have discovered your home?


    • Yes, Wobsy, just as every child discovers a million things that are already known to others. “Dis-cover” just means “uncover”. From the context it is usually clear whether “discover” relates to “the first person ever”, or “the first person of a group”, or “a previously ignorant individual”, and also for whom the discovering is relevant, i.e. for oneself or for a group.

      My father used to argue that Columbus didn’t discover the Americas, because the Vikings had arrived there 500 years previously. That idea never impressed me. Some Vikings discovered North America for themselves, but their knowledge didn’t spread far. Columbus discovered the Americas for most Europeans. I have much more difficulty with his “Indies” and “Indians” nomenclature!


      • Actually, there is some evidence that Columbus found America via the use of Viking charts that had been handed about through organizations he was connected too 😀


        • More evidence, perhaps, that Columbus got hold of a Chinese map from the last Chinese naval expedition before China shut its navy down. We know the Chinese got as far as Zanzibar – and there’s some suggestion (close to conspiracy theory thinking at this point) that they got round the Cape of Good Hope, and circled the South Atlantic counterclockwise. Technically possible, and would have given a sighting of Brazil. There’s a lot of history to be uncovered, and a lot of speculation to be proved or disproved. Most enjoyable!


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