Parallel Histories - Cover
Goodreads Icon

Parallel Histories

Muslims and Jews in Inquisitorial Spain

224 pages / 5.50 x 8.50 inches / 1 map

ebook available

West European History | Spanish & Portuguese History

  Paperback / 9780807154106 / December 2013

The distinct religious culture of early modern Spain—characterized by religious unity at a time when fierce civil wars between Catholics and Protestants fractured northern Europe—is further understood through examining the expulsion of the Jews and suspected Muslims. While these two groups had previously lived peaceably, if sometimes uneasily, with their Christian neighbors throughout much of the medieval era, the expulsions brought a new intensity to Spanish Christian perceptions of both the moriscos (converts from Islam) and the judeoconversos (converts from Judaism). In Parallel Histories, James S. Amelang reconstructs the compelling struggle of converts to coexist with a Christian majority that suspected them of secretly adhering to their ancestral faiths and destroying national religious unity in the process. 

Discussing first Muslims and then Jews in turn, Amelang explores not only the expulsions themselves but also religious beliefs and practices, social and professional characteristics, the construction of collective and individual identities, cultural creativity, and, finally, the difficulties of maintaining orthodox rites and tenets under conditions of persecution. Despite the oppression these two groups experienced, the descendants of the judeoconversos would ultimately be assimilated into the mainstream, unlike their morisco counterparts, who were exiled in 1609. 
Amelang masterfully presents a complex narrative that not only gives voice to the religious minority in early modern Spain but focuses in on one of the greatest divergences in the lineage of European Christianity.

James S. Amelang is a professor of history at the Universidad Autónoma of Madrid.

Praise for Parallel Histories

“James S. Amelang’s book is a masterful synthesis that leads its readers through a difficult historiographical terrain. But it is more than that; it is also a piece of powerful, truly gripping, yet always circumspect writing.”—Sixteenth Century Journal

“James S. Amelang’s book is a creative and interesting work that represents a serious attempt to deal with two historical phenomena that invite an in-depth comparison. Amelang has familiarized himself with a vast amount of literature available in English, Spanish, and French in order to survey and analyze the Jewish and Muslim conversos of Spain. The book is comprised of 17 short, concise, well-written, and thought-provoking chapters.”—American Historical Review

“Deeply learned and unfailingly judicious. . . . It is hard to find fault with this brilliantly-executed synthesis; even when Amelang ventures a provocative or contrarian thesis, he does so in the most constructive of ways, backed by sound documentation.”—Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies

“Readers looking for an intelligent introduction to the complex question of religious minorities in Spain — converted Jews and their descendants, known as conversos, and converted Muslims and their descendants, known as Moriscos —have found it in James Amelang’s new book, Parallel Histories. But specialists in the field will also appreciate this book, which sparks new questions even as it revisits key scholarly debates. It is a masterful work of synthesis, the product of wide reading and deep thinking on complex topics. . . . [It] is sure to remain a foundational volume for years to come.”—Renaissance Quarterly

“This book is a real gem, full of insights, many surprising, the work of someone who has spent many years studying, teaching and thinking about the topic. Although their histories in early modern Spain were ‘parallel’, Amelang draws some interesting and fruitful comparisons, as well as some unexpected conclusions. . . . An excellent book that will be standard reading on the subject for many years to come.”—History

Found an Error? Tell us about it.