Hernando de Baeza and the making of Catholic Spain
Date: 7 January 2019
University of Exeter
Hernando de Baeza’s short memoir recounting the collapse of the Muslim kingdom of Granada (1492), is based on his own experiences as an intermediary between its last emir, ‘Boabdil’, and the Catholic Monarchs. His experiences on both sides of the Reconquista’s last frontier and his sympathetic depiction of both ‘Moors’ and Christians, ...
Hernando de Baeza’s short memoir recounting the collapse of the Muslim kingdom of Granada (1492), is based on his own experiences as an intermediary between its last emir, ‘Boabdil’, and the Catholic Monarchs. His experiences on both sides of the Reconquista’s last frontier and his sympathetic depiction of both ‘Moors’ and Christians, suggest an individual whose life and work have much to tell us about the passage from the pluralism of medieval Iberia to the militantly exclusive Christianity of Catholic Spain. However, lack of information about Baeza’s identity and circumstances has constrained meaningful critical analysis, with the consequence that his atypical and potentially illuminating contribution to historiography has remained enigmatic and under-exploited. This thesis identifies Baeza as a high-status judeoconverso in the service of a noble household whose vast estates adjoined the kingdom of Granada. It presents the results of extensive archival research into his family and networks, situating him within his social and political contexts before, during and after his association with Boabdil. A substantial focus on his life history in Part I is linked to a close examination of his memoir, and its ideological dimension, in Part II. Evidence from Baeza’s life history and from his memoir together provide a thread which connects the events, controversies and preoccupations of the emerging Catholic Spain. The thesis traces how Baeza and his family, in partnership with their noble masters, experienced, reacted to, and sought to influence, the momentous changes of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries: the evolution of an array of medieval kingdoms into the hub of an empire, the mass conversions of Jews and Muslims, the emergence of new conceptions of spirituality and political consciousness, and the Inquisition’s role in policing orthodoxy. From Cordoba and the first years of the Inquisition, through the Granada war, to the Italy of the High Renaissance, Baeza wrote a memoir which quietly contradicts all the fundamental elements of contemporary accounts of the conquest of Granada and allows us to glimpse a historical consciousness which unsettles both the standard Reconquista narrative and more recent accounts lamenting the loss of multicultural Iberia. The first English translation of the work is appended.
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