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19.01.09 Baloup/González Arévalo, eds. La Guerra de Granada

19.01.09 Baloup/González Arévalo, eds. La Guerra de Granada

By its stated interest, the series Les croisades tardives is dedicated to exposing the long enduring phenomenologies of crusade, well into the later crusading period. The essays in this collected volume do not cover a broad chronological span, as some surveys of later crusading might, but rather focus on a specific series of military campaigns in the wars against the late Nasrid kingdom in Granada. Eschewing the "romantic nationalism (nacionalismo romántico)" (back cover) of earlier historiographies about the role played by the fall of Granada, the volume instead seeks to expose the complex and idiosyncratic interplay between the many wars held under the umbrella of the larger campaign to push the Nasrids into the sea and the many ways in which contemporary Mediterranean societies and the larger crusading ethos were inflected with the meaningful influences of the Granada campaigns. Because it is a volume of several, rather different, essays tied together by the common military context of the Granada wars, it seems best to review the individual chapters on their own merit before evaluating the volume as a whole.

The first body chapter of the volume is Jacque Paviot's "La chevalrie francaise, anglaisse et ecossaise dans les guerres de Detroit et Granade." The focus of the larger volume--international influences on the war of Granada--comes clearly into view with Paviot's essay, given its patent focus on charting French, English and Scottish involvement in many conflicts leading to the eventual conquest of the Nasrids. While the essay presents copious evidence, it often does so in the form of extended block quotations, some of which should have been trimmed down to make the essay more accessible. The variety of well-developed and examined cases of chivalric exploits show that the Granada campaigns served as a proving ground for Scottish, French, and English knights. In doing so, Paviot's study shows that the depth and complexity involvement from warriors beyond the Pyrenees--themselves not so far removed from a conflict of immense scale--were engaged in mapping their military prowess against the Nasrids.

The next essay in the volume is José Enrique López de Coca Castañer's "El Reino de Granada y las cruzadas tardías." The chapter takes the general position that the same kind of "proving ground" for chivalry in the Granada campaigns was evident in the crusading emphases that grew up in the fourteenth century's literature about Granada. By engaging with the sources in careful detail López de Coca Castañer's chapter unfolds the variety of ways that the discourses about Granada changed over a long period of time. The study catalogues many of the literary and historical figures who engaged with that rhetoric and the ways in which that dialogue shifted over time. Arguing for the development of this trajectory of intersecting conversations about the activities of warriors and actors on the Granadan frontier.

The third body chapter is "Ecos contrastados de la guerra de Granada: difusión y seguimiento desigual en los contextos ibérico y mediterráneo" by Roser Salicrú i Lluch. The essay, through extensive archival research, demonstrates that the back-and-forth between the Kingdoms of the Catholic Monarchs, particularly those of Fernando, and the polities on the Italian Peninsula was part of a larger exchange between those mercantile powers who stood to benefit from a newly-Christian Granada. The greatest strength of the essay is its use of wide-ranging archival material to tell "both sides" of the story of Aragonese diplomacy with the non-Venetian states of northern Italy. The non-Venetian emphasis of Salicrú i Lluch's contribution is clearly a deliberate choice, in view of the chapter it preceded, and should be regarded as a strength--i.e. because of its focused clarity--rather than an omission.

Giovanni Ricci's chapter, "'Estaba amancebada con el Turco': Venezia contra gli Aragonesi in Italia e in Andalusia," comprises the fourth study in the volume and is an excellent complement to Salicrú I Lluch's piece. The piece is a tight examination of the role played by the looming threat of the Ottoman Turkish navy on the relationship between Venice and the crown of Aragon. Because of the observable changes in the relationships--from wary adversaries to reluctant collaborators--between the two powers, Ricci´s use of the evidence suggests the way that increasing international interests in the campaign against Granada drew other Mediterranean Christian-Islamic conquests into comparative relief. The essay adds the important element of the Venetians to the larger portrait of how diplomatic sources reveal te ways Italianate powers engaged with the Granada campaign.

The fifth essay in the volume is Raúl González Arévalo's "La Guerra de Granada en la correspondencia diplomática de los embajadores de Ferrara en Nápoles (1482-1491)." Gonzáelz Arévalo's chapter adds to the two previous chapters on Italian sources, focusing on the Ferraran ambassador's testimony and what it reveals about the development of the conflict against Granada in their letters. The attempt by the Catholic Monarchs to influence the policies of Italian states, particularly with respect to their Neapolitan kinsman, is foregrounded in several of the micro-case-studies of secretarial records in the essay, giving the essay a kind of narrowing focus in order to dive deeply into the evidence.

"La conquista de Málage (1487). Repercusiones festivas y literarias en Roma" by Nicasio Salvador Miguel forms the sixth chapter. At more than 120 pages, it is by far the longest chapter of the volume, although the research for the chapter is so extensively documented that most pages are dominated by the footnotes rather than the study proper. While the length of the chapter provides an incredible wealth of material, it seems rather peculiar that the chapter was not cut down and the material in the chapter allowed to point to a separate monograph--which was mentioned in the first footnote--where the case could be laid out in a fashion commensurate with the author. Instead, the chapter's excessive length distracts and drags down the middle part of the volume.

Nikolas Jaspert's essay, "Los alemanes y la Guerra de Granada: participación, comunicación, difusión," is the final chapter in this treatment of the Granada crusades. With subsections that make clear the variety of interactions between the Holy Roman Empire and the campaigns, Jaspert's expertise in both the sources of the Granada campaign and the Holy Roman Empire make the chapter a valuable contribution. While the participation of persons from the Empire was rather varied, as the chapter shows, the reception of the campaign in the Empire was much more narrow, and limited primarily to the humanists of the same region. Effectively, Jaspert is able to show the multi-level and unequal engagement of subjects of "alemania" with the Granada campaign in a fashion that perhaps presages the later Hapsburgs' complicated relationship with their extensive territories.

An epilogue, penned by Franco Cardini recaps the volumes contents, and draws contrasts between several of the essays, but stops short of offering any constructive criticism or view toward new studies, nor should it have. The point of the volume, as its introduction laid out, was to sketch the internationalization of the crusading movement against Granada. By providing such a wide array of scholarly examinations, the epilogue rightly suggests the value of the volume as a whole.

Overall, the volume's great strength is the collection of so many meaningful studies from a wide array of scholars. The viability of so many scholarly angles, as presented, is a huge reason to recommend the volume, and drawing on so many linguistic backgrounds makes it accessible for scholars of many backgrounds. Problematically, this may hamstring some readers: the essays are in a variety of European languages, and may present challenges for readers less comfortable with Mediterranean vernacular languages. However, even this criticism would seem to betray the great value of the volume: a book of essays must necessarily appeal to a variety of audiences.