Spain is a large country in Europe to the south of France, and the home of Don Quixote. Southern Spain was a mix of cultures due to the "occupation" in the 7th - 15th centuries of the Moors from Africa who did not uproot the local population, and the intermittent influx of Jews coming to escape persecution elsewhere in Europe.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Spanish peninsula underwent a period of isolated calm, as the various nomadic invaders from the East either passed through or settled.
In 711 the Moorish Invasion occurred, when the armies of Islam, having conquered their way along the Mediterranean coast of Africa, crossed at the Pillars of Hercules and invaded what would become Spain. By 714, just three years later, all of the penisula was is Islamic hands, except for a tiny enclave in the extreme north-west, in Galicia, held by a mixture of Christianised Visigoths and Romanised Spaniards.
In 732, however, at the battle of Poitiers in France Charles Martel defeated the Islamic armies and the Moorish advance was halted. Under the Moors, with their capital at Cordoba, Spain enjoyed culture, prosperity, and relative peace. Agriculture was enhanced by techniques of irrigation, and by the introduction of new crops, such as the orange. The peninsula was brought into the Arabic trading circle and scholars and artists came there to serve the Moorish courts. A library of 400,000 volumes was established at Cordoba.
The Christians still wished to expel the Muslims, however. Galicia became a kingdom, Asturias, then parts of it became the kingdoms of Leon and Castile. A second enclave, Navarre, was established, on the Pyreneean slopes, centred on Pamplona. Then, in the early ninth century the son of Charlemagne, Louis, captured Barcelona, on the east coast, and established the County of Catalonia. From these footholds the Reconquest was begun.
In 1085 Toledo was recaptured, and in 1093 Valencia (although it was to be retaken by the Moors. After an hiatus brought about by the diversion of Christian muscle and chivalry to the First Crusade, in 1118 Saragosa fell, to the king of Aragon. Orders of Christian knighthood sprang up, committed to expelling Islam, and by the end of the thirteenth century all that was left was the Moorish kingdom of Granada, in the south-east, which had made "arrangements" with Castile.
In 1340 an Arab army from North Africa attacked through Gibraltar but the navy supporting it was thoroughly defeated, and the enterprise to reverse the ReConquest failed. Granada was suffered to exist, more or less completely cut off from the Arabic world, for a further 150 years until, in 1492, the by-then unified Spain (unified by the marriage of the heirs to the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, Isabella and Ferdinand) swept it from existence.
The SCA in Spain
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