Beaver on Spain & Egypt at the Lisbon ASPHS

Adam G. Beaver’s paper, “From Pharaohs to Moros: Egypt in Renaissance Spain, ca. 1250-1517,” made a compelling historiographical argument about the importance of studying the relationship between Spain and the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt. He points out that although studying links across the early modern and medieval Mediterranean is fashionable right now, it really boils down to two historiographical points. One is that the Mediterranean was a site of free-wheeling cultural exchange with a relaxed modus vivendi, and the other is that Said’s orientalizing theme can be found already in the Renaissance and earlier. Beaver further argues that the two approaches are to some extent predetermined by their subjects and sources: the orientalizing theme draws its sources from Renaissance humanists who never actually journeyed to the Levant and were not really interesting in accurately portraying Muslim societies, and the cultural exchange theme draws its sources from merchants and diplomats, whose raison-d’etre is of course to make deals (and further, focuses heavily on Venetian relations with the Ottomans, shrinking the “Mediterranean” down to a bridge between Venice and Constantinople). Examining Spain and Egypt provides a useful corrective to this, since they enjoyed a relatively stable alliance of mutual benefit for centuries. Further, it was founded neither on moralizing-humanists nor on deal-making merchants, but instead on issues like pilgrim’s access to holy sites (Jerusalem and Mecca). Focusing on the Spanish-Mamluk connections can expand our idea of the Mediterranean and the kinds of interactions that western Christians and eastern Muslims had with one another.


About emspanishhistorynotes

Scott Taylor is an associate professor in the history department at the University of Kentucky.


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