Migratory flows (16th–19th century)

The united Crown of Spain

The 1212 defeat of the Almohads[1] known to the Muslims as Al Uqab and to the Christians as Las Navas de Tolosa marks a turning point. From that date onwards, the Muslim domination of the Iberian Peninsula is on the wane. Enfeebled Moroccan dynasties have momentarily lost interest in Andalusia as the Ottoman might is making itself felt in North Africa where, as early as the beginning of the 15th century, Portugal had a point d'appui. At the other end of the Mediterranean, this is echoed by the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The Ottomans make no mystery of their strategy aimed at reaching the Atlantic coast on both sides of the Straights of Gibraltar. The fall of Granada in 1492 should not be read as a mere answer to that of the Byzantine capital only. The Porte may well claim to lead a jihad against (Christian) “infidels”, notably those in the Iberian Peninsula, even as the Crown of Spain likewise purports the defence of Christendom against (Muslim) “infidels” ; yet, the geopolitical case is more complex. Beyond the religious rationale, the north of the African continent appears to both as a potential – and most desirable object of conquest.

Against a difficult socio-economic background, the political decisions leading to the expulsion of non-Christians relied on religious orientations partly connoted in the word Reconquista. 15th and 16th century Spain is convulsed by economic crises. Philip II[2] 's military expeditions had impoverished the public treasury. The Spanish monarchy proposed to tighten the political and ideological union between the « Old christians[3] » by raising the religious stakes. According to rough estimates, there were 300 perhaps 400,000 Muslims (Moriscos[4] or not) and as many Jews (Marranos[5] or not) out of a total of 8.5 million people. In the realms of the Crown of Aragon, the concentration may have been of 20% ; it might have reached 40% in the Valencian country. These communities' aristocracy had hung on to their titles, offices and wealth. A third of them were landowners and some even lent money to the old Spanish aristocracy. Members of these elite had even taken up Iberian sounding names the better to blend in. And yet, one century after they were forced to adopt the Christian faith, a majority of these new converts of Muslim or Jewish stock were accused of keeping themselves separate from the rest of society in exclusive, cohesive social groups. Although they had foregone the use of their own language in favour of Castilian and though their knowledge of their rites was vestigial, some continued to practice their faith in secret. And the demographic growth of the Moriscos, borne out by the 1565-1572 censuses, raised concerns among the Catholic populace.

After « a millennium of history and of intense interbreeding between Iberians, Celts, Romans, Jews, Arabs, Slavs and Berbers », historian Juan Eslava Galan writes, « it was impossible to figure out people's ancestry ». Yet in the eyes of the political and religious leaders, cohabitation was deemed impossible. Throughout the 16th century, in Granada and in Valencia, the clergy excoriated ongoing non-Christian practices. Moriscos and Marannos allegedly restricted their Christian observance to its outward rites, or so church sources asserted whose interests – depending on the period and the author – may be to minimise or to emphasise the phenomenon. This failure of evangelisation was blamed on deficient guidance at parish level and on what was termed “duplicity” on the converts' part. The concealment approach ascribed to Muslims and Jews went associated to the concept of taqiyya[6] .

  1. Almohads

    The Almohads (Al-Muwahhidun) are a Moroccan dynasty of Berber origin. Founded around 1147, on the basis of a religious doctrine developed by Al Mahdì Ibn Toumert, this dynasty rose to dominate the Greater Maghreb and part of the Iberian peninsula between 1147 and 1269.

  2. Philip II (1527-1598)

    Born in Valladolid, he was given a strict education and is known for his ascetic piety. He shouldered political responsibilities from an early age. In 1556, a few months after his father Charles V's abdication, he inherited an immense empire embracing Spain and its colonies. At home pushed for centralisation and unification. Abroad he waged war against France, then England and he had to quell a rebellion in the United Provinces. He incarnates both the Spanish Golden Age and the weaknesses which were the downside of might : costly wars, population flight to the American continent's colonies, Morisco exodus. King of Spain from 1556, he succeeded his father Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. During his reign he fought the European Protestant powers, notably England but his attempt to invade the country by sea (with the Invincible Armada) failed.

  3. Old Christians

    A term used to refer to Christians who, according to contemporaries, never confessed the Jewish or Muslim faith, as opposed to the Cristianos nuevos (New Christians) referring to Jews or Muslims converted to Catholicism, on varied grounds, including fear.

  4. Moriscos

    From the Spanish word for a small moor : Muslims who converted to Catholicism nolens volens after the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile) abrogated the agreements that allowed them to uphold their faith and customs on Spanish soil.

  5. Marranos

    Term used from the 15th century on to describe Jews from the Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) converted,nolens volens, to Catholicism, nolens volens and who continued secretly to practice Judaism. Also Jews who had adopted the Christian faith.

  6. Taqiyya

    Arabic term associated to the prudence and caution principle. It is justified by clerics and lawyers in order to enable a Muslim to practice his religion in secret, in order to remain loyal to his faith when under duress.

AccueilAccueilImprimerImprimer Mohamed El Mazouni, Professeur à l'Université Ibn Zohr, Agadir (Maroc) Paternité - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de ModificationRéalisé avec Scenari (nouvelle fenêtre)