It remains curious in this regard that little effort is made to examine the attempts medieval Latin-Speaking Christians made to assert their Visigothic roots vis-a-vis Christian communities embracing Arab culture and language. What continuities may be present here? The second and third movements dealt with in the book appear in the last several chapters. Here, the authors examine the emergence of a scholarly guild in early-modern Spain, and a group of scholars who sought to write Spain’s history in light of Arabic sources. Doing so, of course, required knowledge of Arabic, among other Easter languages. In the same way, how these scholars dealt with the place of Islam in Spain’s past is considered. Both Arabic language and Islam formed the basis upon which we new types of scholarship emerged in Spain, or more specifically, how “Orientalist Scholarship” (307) gained a foothold.
The analysis here is succient and often speculative. The authors readily acknowledge this and, though their arguments are usually successful and helpful- this is especially true in their discussion of Marcos Dobeio and the question of whether Arabic is an inherently Islamic language (Chapter 13)- one wonders how a slightly more narrow focus may have strengthened their investigation of an emerging “Orientalist Scholarship”. However, the consistency with which Garcia-Arenal and Rodriquez Mediano remind readers of the place the Lead Books have in their arguments helps to under-gird their speculations.
In the end, it must be said that the work is very nearly encyclopedic in the amount of ground it covers. Indeed readers meet so any figures in the text that may easily lose track of the roles individuals play in the history under examination and the multiple ways in which they influence on another. With this in mind, whilst, the authors excel in drawing connections between multiple facets of early modern Spanish history readers may sometimes struggle t maintain a proper grasp on the figures and text under discussion.
Even, so in The Orient in Spain researchers, historians, and scholars are treated to a unique study of an important era of Spanish intellectual history. At a time when researchers increasingly risk over-specialization, Garcia-Arenal and Rodriquez Mediano demonstrate with great skill how one set of texts can reveal the continuities that are present within and between medieval and modern Spain. In this light, the book comes as wa welcome volume to the field for those who study early-modern Spain and Islam in Europe.