Today in European history: the Battle of Río Salado (1340)

Whoever came up with the term Reconquista to describe the Christian conquest of the Iberian Peninsula from Muslims deserves an all-time gold star for public relations work. I mean, there were parts of modern Spain that were in Muslim hands for well over seven hundred years, and if there’s a statute of limitations on when something stops being a “reconquest” and becomes simply a “conquest,” I have to think it’s shorter than that. Reconquista carries the implication that the Iberian peninsula was somehow ordained Christian at some point and that its Muslim rulers were just temporary interlopers before its “real” rulers ousted them. It also suggests that the fight to “restore” Christian rule was an unending 700 year war between Christians and Muslims, when in reality the politics of the 8th-15th century Iberian peninsula were far more nuanced than that. It’s ahistorical and propagandistic. Unfortunately, it’s also the term everybody uses, and rather than fight the tide I’m going to use it too.

By 1340, the Muslim presence in Iberia was down to one kingdom: the Emirate of Granada. This emirate was founded in 1238, after the final Muslim empire to control all of al-Andalus, the Almohad Caliphate, lost that control in the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. By that point the Reconquista was in full swing, and when Seville fell to the Castilians in 1248, Granada was the last Muslim polity standing. It managed to hold out for almost 250 more years under the Nasrid Dynasty, though it was a Castilian vassal (an example of the political nuance I mentioned above) for most of its existence.

This is just a placeholder. If you’d like to read the rest please check out my new home, Foreign Exchanges!

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