04 May 2007

The Moors in Spain

Recently I was asked what inspired my latest story, Lord Sancho. The main character is of Moorish decent living in Spain. How did I come up with this? Researching history. I wanted my hero, a black man, to have a solid foot in the past, so I turned to the Moors.

"Moor" in medieval times referred to Muslims living in western Mediterranean and western Sahara. Generally Moors were made up of Arabs, Berbers and North African peoples. The word "Moor" comes from the Greek word mauros meaning "dark" or "very dark."

In the 8th century, Spain was raided by troops led by Tariq ibn-Ziyad. Once the Visigoth king Roderick was killed in 711, the gates for the Moorish occupation were opened. They spread through the land and by 718, the Moors dominated the entire peninsula. Their advance northward into the rest of Europe was stopped by the Franks under the command of Charles Martel in 732.

For the next 700 years, the Moors would influence the culture and society of Spain. Many married local woman, as they did not bring their own women with them. This mix of race and culture changed the face and heart of Spain.

The Moors brought a wealth of information and changes in the land called al-Andalus, modern day Andalusia. They brought irrigation systems to the dry plains and created thriving gardens that produced pomegranates, oranges, lemons, artichokes, cumin, coriander, bananas, almonds, saffron, sugar-cane, cotton, rice, figs, grapes, peaches, apricots and rice. The Moors are also responsible for introducing glasswork, glazed tiles (azulejos), silk weaving and other fine crafts along with making important scientific advances, such as those in theoretical and practical astronomy. Mathematics, the numbers we use today, were from the Arabic Moors. Much of society and culture of modern times can be traced back to occupation and influence of the Moorish culture in Spain.

Due to internal politics and troubles, the Moorish kingdom broke apart in organization in 1212. Smaller (and fragile) kingdoms feuded among each other, marking the beginning of the end of the Moorish occupation of Spain. A "Holy War" took hold and pitted the Muslim Moors against the Christians. This was fueled by the Crusades taking place, to "recapture" the Holy Lands (Jerusalem) from Muslim rule, and stop the advance of Muslim occupation into Christian lands.

In 1492, the kingdom of Granada was captured by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella’s troops, thus the final defeat of the Moors. Those Moors who refused to abandon their religious beliefs were killed or exiled. It was not the strength of Christianity that finally defeated the Moors. Much like that which caused the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the disorganization and internal strife within the ranks that spelled the end to the Moorish occupation of Spain. Their influences and stamp upon the culture, people and land will never be forgotten.

Marianne LaCroix
LORD SANCHO - Available now from The Dark Castle Lords
SEA HAWK'S MISTRESS - Coming July 18 from Ellora's Cave


Morag McKendrick Pippin said...

Very interesting! I always watch this when it's on the History Channel.

lacey kaye said...

Thank you for the post! I'm sold :-)

Michelle Monkou said...

Glad you did this. My very first historical romance was a Morisco (converted Moor)and a Spanish nobleman. I got so many rejections. As as soon as they heard Moor, it was as if the Apocalypse had occurred. I laid it to rest and went contemporary. But that is still the story of my heart.

Michelle Monkou

carrie_lofty said...

Argh, the sequel to my WIP will be set in Moorish Spain. Drat publishers ;)

Marianne LaCroix said...

You know, with the upswing of more interracial and multicultural romance, I think historicals set in this time period will have a market. I really do. I wish I could remember who was taking multicultural historicals....maybe Dorchester? To be honest, I will believe a Moorish Spain set historical over an American Western set historical featuring black characters. Know what I mean?

And for the record, I had an agent *specifically* ask to read LORD SANCHO because of the Moorish history tied to it. I'll let you all know how that goes.

Jacquie said...

I don't have any problem with reading black people in the Old West. At least 25% of the cowboys were black, driven from their homes by the Civil War, and in fact anglos made up less than 50% of the drovers. Plus, the man who invented the modern sport of steer wrestling was Bill Pickett, a black man. Granted, most black men took the money they made back East with them to support their families, but they played a powerful role in building the Old West.

And don't forget the women. They had just as colorful role in the brothels as white women did, and some made a LOT of money.

Then, of course, there's Morgan Freeman in Unforgiven. Awesome, and a very believable character.

And hey, I'm interested in the Moors of Spain, too. I've always wondered about them and their connection with the Basque population.