Disinherited: Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492-1975


A provocative, brilliant, and groundbreaking historical reconsideration of the roots of Spanish culture.

We all carry in our heads a seductive picture of what Spain stands for: its music, painting, buildings, and history. But much of what we think of as Spanish culture is, in fact, the invention of a very specific group: the Spanish in exile.

Historian Henry Kamen creates a vivid portrait of a dysfunctional, violent country that, since the ...

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A provocative, brilliant, and groundbreaking historical reconsideration of the roots of Spanish culture.

We all carry in our heads a seductive picture of what Spain stands for: its music, painting, buildings, and history. But much of what we think of as Spanish culture is, in fact, the invention of a very specific group: the Spanish in exile.

Historian Henry Kamen creates a vivid portrait of a dysfunctional, violent country that, since the destruction of the last Muslim territories in Granada in 1492, has expelled wave after wave of its citizens in a brutal attempt to create religious and social conformity. Muslims, Jews, Protestants, liberals, Socialists, and Communists were all driven abroad at different times, and Spain's enormous contribution to European culture is largely a result of these rejected peoples—their creative response both to having no home and to the shock of encountering new worlds. A landmark work, The Disinherited describes with illuminating sympathy the travails of these unwanted societies and the enduring "virtual" culture they imagined often thousands of miles from their lost home.

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Editorial Reviews

Mark Falcoff
“Henry Kamen is the finest historian of Spain presently writing in any language.”
Contemporary Review
“This is a fascinating study from an old hand and one that looks afresh at a crucial theme in Spanish history.”
New York Sun
“Encyclopedic...Mr. Kamen...is....one of the greatest living historians of Spain.”
Contemporary Review
“This is a fascinating study from an old hand and one that looks afresh at a crucial theme in Spanish history.”
New York Sun
“Encyclopedic...Mr. Kamen...is....one of the greatest living historians of Spain.”
Publishers Weekly

Since 1492, Spain has experienced more than 14 great exoduses and expulsions, making it by far the most "departed" country in Europe. Kamen (Empire: How Spain Became a Great Power), a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, explains that the exile of some three million Spaniards has exerted a powerful influence on Spanish culture, identity and character in absentia. These exiles, recalling only the sights, smells and sounds of home, often conceived idealistic visions of what their country should be and persuaded others to realize them. Modern Spain, he argues, is thus the invention of its disinherited citizens: many of the finest works of Spain's authors, painters (Picasso's Guernica,for instance), musicians and philosophers were produced outside of the mother country. Over the course of his narrative, Kamen discusses in detail the background conditions of the most painful exiles (the Jews in 1492, Protestants in 1559, Muslims in 1609, liberals in 1813 and writers in 1936) and while commiserating that "the disinherited went through deprivation, alienation and loss of identity," he concludes that they achieved for Hispanic culture something they could not have had they stayed home and enjoyed a life of tranquillity. Kamen adopts an intriguing perspective for those who have a broad interest in, and familiarity with, Hispanic history. 16 pages of b&w illus. (Dec. 2)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

In 1492, Jews were banished from Spain; the Moors suffered the same fate in 1609. Prior to these banishments, Christians, Jews, and Muslims mixed in the same communities, and medieval Spain was noted for tolerance and intellectual fermentation. According to Kamen (Royal Historical Soc., London; Empire: How Spain Became a Great Power), it was these expulsions that unleashed centuries of intolerance, forcing many Spaniards to flee their homeland. While opposition to the political and religious status quo turned many Spaniards into exiles, Kamen is primarily interested in the Spanish intelligentsia who have left their country over the centuries to pursue their professional and creative ambitions. Artists, musicians, writers, and scientists, from Jose Ortega y Gasset and Luis Cernuda to Pablo Picasso and Pablo Casals, chose self-exile rather than endure Spain's intolerant and intellectually stagnant atmosphere. Kamen examines the lives of many of these exiles to explain the impact their absence had on Spain and to measure their contributions to Western culture. In many respects, this book is a sad sequel to Chris Lowney's A Vanished World: Medieval Spain's Golden Age of Enlightenmentand is an essential purchase for all Spanish history collections.
—Jim Doyle

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060730871
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/2/2008
  • Pages: 544
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Henry Kamen is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society in London and an emeritus professor of the Higher Council for Scientific Research in Barcelona. He is the author of Empire: How Spain Became a Great Power, 1492-1763, as well as several other books on Spain. He divides his time between Barcelona and the United States.

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Read an Excerpt

The Disinherited
Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492-1975

Chapter One

The Survival of the Jew

If any infirmity can be said to be most specifically Jewish, it is melancholy, because of the sadness and fear contracted from the injuries and oppressions of exile.
Isaac Cardoso, Excellences of the Jews (1679)1

No sooner had Ferdinand and Isabella managed to secure their power as rulers of Spain, than they were absorbed by an issue that was disrupting political life in the towns of southern Castile. Members of the clergy came with complaints that Jews who had allegedly converted to Christianity were still practising their old faith in secret. It was a problem with a very long history.

Jews had been in the peninsula from at least the third century, and in medieval Spain—which came to be known in their tradition as 'Sepharad'—they constituted the single largest Jewish community in the world. Their presence created, at least in Christian minds, a stereotype of rich town-dwellers, though by the fifteenth century most lived in the small villages that were typical of the medieval countryside. There they farmed, bred sheep, kept vineyards and orchards, and usually lived peacefully with their Christian neighbours. In the towns they often occupied professions that involved daily contact with Christians: shopkeepers, grocers, dyers and weavers. Sometimes they became identified with a particular profession: in the small town of Murcia in the year 1407, for instance, there were thirty Jewish tailors. The regular contact between Spaniards of different religions, called'convivencia' or coexistence by historians, was typical of the medieval period. As in multicultural communities in the world of today, Christians, Jews and Muslims in late medieval Spain were able to work together even while they experienced regular tensions, frequent misunderstandings and occasional acute conflicts.

The richer Jews enjoyed noble rank in their own communities and collaborated with Christian and Muslim kings in the performance of specific tasks. Jewish society, however, had its own separate life and was not integrated into the lifestyle of the two main religions. Like any other unprivileged minority they were excluded from jobs and professions exercising authority (for example, in town government or in the army), but served in a broad range of middle and lesser callings.2 They managed, for example, to play a significant role in public life in the areas of medicine and financial administration. Many rulers (including Ferdinand) had Jewish doctors, and many (like Isabella) employed Jews as financiers. The number of Jewish tax officials, however, was always very small. Occasionally, Jews were able to play a significant cultural role as translators from Arabic, a tongue the Christians had difficulty in learning, but their overall impact on Spanish society was inevitably limited. As a small minority they could not flaunt great buildings and palaces, and the only outstanding remains of their period of splendour are the elegant but discreet synagogues they managed to construct, notably in Toledo. In the thirteenth century their community formed just under 2 per cent of Spain's population, totalling maybe some 100,000 persons. Subsequently their conditions of life worsened, and in many towns they were obliged to live in segregated areas or ghettos, known as 'aljamas'. Their numbers shrank dramatically, as intermittent persecution forced many to abandon their traditional religion.

In 1391 there was a fierce outbreak of anti-Jewish riots all over Spain, and in order to escape a worse fate most Jews accepted conversion to Christianity. It was a dramatic change. From then on, Jews were no longer a significant minority and their numbers shrank almost to vanishing point. In Barcelona, where visitors can still see the part of the city to which Jews had been restricted, the authorities in 1412 closed the ghetto (or 'Call') because there were no Jews left. By contrast, the converted 'New Christians' (they were also termed 'conversos' or 'Marranos') were now far more numerous than those Jews who had refused to change their faith. When the epoch of troubles passed, many of the converts drifted back into the practice of Judaism, and no attempt was made to discipline them for not being true Christians. In any case, what was a 'true Christian'? In late medieval Europe, there were no strict rules, nor any firm statement of belief, to define what it meant to be a Christian. The overwhelming majority of the population was ignorant of the basic elements of belief, and took part only sporadically in the rites of the Church. Converso religion, usually Christian on the outside but with many elements of Jewish practice mixed in, fitted into this ambience of undefined and uncertain Christianity. Had the problem only been one of confused religious practice, the situation of the conversos might have gone unnoticed.

The perennial issue of political rivalry, however, clouded the waters of social coexistence. In many large towns of southern Spain, such as Toledo, Seville and Cordoba, conversos were numerous enough to carry political weight, and even to control the city council. Enmities and rivalries picked on the issue of 'race' as a sticking point, and the ambiguous religious practice of the conversos sparked off a vigorous controversy. Some members of the clergy, backed up by others who were motivated by political or social rivalry, accused conversos of being 'false' Christians who aimed to gain control of the country. Disputes over the matter went on for over a generation, until in 1478 Ferdinand and Isabella set up, with the pope's help, a new judicial tribunal, the Inquisition, whose principal task was to investigate whether the conversos were indeed 'heretics', as many alleged, or 'true' Christians. The tribunal in its first years acted with unprecedented severity (usually—as we shall have occasion to comment later—through arrests and punishments, accompanied by a few executions), but failed to solve the matter adequately. Eventually the inquisitors came to the opinion that it was the continued presence of the small Jewish population that encouraged the conversos to cling to their 'heresy'. They accordingly persuaded the crown that the right step was to . . .

The Disinherited
Exile and the Making of Spanish Culture, 1492-1975
. Copyright © by Henry Kamen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Preface ix

Prelude: 1492 - A Cultural Legacy 1

1 The Survival of the Jew 5

2 The Persistence of the Moor 53

3 The Wars of Religion 94

4 The Discovery of 'Europe' 136

5 Romantic Spain 171

6 Searching for a National Identity 213

7 The Elite Diaspora of 1936-9 260

8 The Search for Atlantis 322

9 Hispanic Identity and the Permanence of Exile 367

10 The Return of the Exiles 397

Glossary 447

Select Bibliography 449

Notes 457

Index 493

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