Moor, 1) Muslim of North Africa. Although often assumed to be a black race, in fact, the Moors were of Berber and Arab descent, mixed with considerable Negroid and Iberian blood. The word probably derives from Mauri, L. by way of Gr. for ‘dark men.’ Their native lands constituted parts of Morocco, Algeria, and Mauritania. One theory is that the name originally derives from Berber Amazigh, ‘freemen,’ referring to their nomadic existence, and in Greek times came to mean anyone with dark skin. By the Middle Ages the term came to be applied to any Muslims (similarly, all Europeans were called Franks in the Mohammadean world). Since Moors were thought of as being dark skinned, the word was also used generally to apply to blacks, although light-skinned Moors were well known. The word ‘blackamoor’ was also common, which implies a distinction from lighter-skinned Moors.
In any case, attitudes to race were much different then because there had been so little direct contact between the population of England and the ‘exotic races. There was also no long history of the disgusting racist theories which still burden the modern world. There were celebrity Moors in London, but the overall awareness would be of a faraway people, who to a greater or lesser degree were allied with the enemies of Christendom. After their early history (see Mauritania), the Moors were overrun by the Arabs in the 7th c., who replaced their religion and language and formed a dynamic culture. In the 8th c. the Moors defeated the Visigoths and conquered Spain.
Their attempt to move north into France was turned back by Charles Martel in 732, though they conquered Sicily in 827. Gradually the Christian reconquest drove them back until the only Moorish stronghold in Spain, Granada, fell in 1492.“The Iberian Moors, who had considerably intermarried, returned to Africa where they were known as Andalusians, and scattered over the enormous range of the Moors, from the Mediterranean to the Senegal river, and from the Atlantic to Timbuktu.”