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The Ornament of the World, by Maria Rosa Menocal

The subtitle of this book (too long to add to this post's header) is, "How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain." Yup, another Spain book! Centered around some of the areas I'll be visiting, this approachable scholarly work covers the time period a few centuries before Alfonso X. Alfonso took advantage of a Muslim world in great political turmoil; this book focuses on the golden age and then the troubles that lead up to that point.

Menocal's basic argument is to refute the inevitability of history. There is no point, she claims, at which the collapse of religious tolerance in Spain was a foregone conclusion. Similarly, there is no reason why we cannot enjoy cultural tolerance again. Menocal grounds her history in certain personages of importance in early medieval Spain, whether they be Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. Indeed, the lines between these groups quickly became blurred, as the cultural backwater was suddenly opened…

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