Mark S. Weiner

Posts Tagged ‘Reconquista’

Muslims, Christians and Legal Bargaining

In Books and libraries, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Europe, Islam, Spain on August 22, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Back to the Getty’s images from the Vidal Mayor, the great thirteenth-century redaction of Aragonese law.

The manuscript emerges from a critical moment in the relation between Christianity and Islam, the Spanish Reconquista—the gradual capture by Christian crusaders of Muslim Iberia, the caliphate of al-Andalus.

This moment plays a vital role in the ideology of Al Qaeda and its Salafi-jihadist affiliates. Osama bin Laden spoke repeatedly of the “tragedy of al-Andalus,” and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb frequently refers to Muslim Spain in its messaging (for more detail, see this succinct article from the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point).

The political imagination of Al Qaeda and company, that is, is fueled by the historical memory of the larger time and place in which Bishop Vidal de Cañellas made his great legal redaction for King James I of Aragon.

From Vidal Mayor

In my previous post, I noted that the charters, or fueros, that the Vidal Mayor incorporates were part of a process in which Iberian royals attracted Christian settlement within the peninsula by offering various legal privileges. They used fueros much like Delaware today uses its laws of incorporation—as an enticement.

If you’re a king and want to attract merchants to a town, what do you do? Provide its inhabitants with especially strong protections of their private property and announce that henceforth they’re exempt from certain taxes. In the meantime, put an end to the violence of clan feuds, which are detrimental to commerce.

Want to draw nobles to a frontier where they may have to fight Muslim forced by horseback?  Provide them with legal exemptions from their usual mandatory military service. Read the rest of this entry »

“O Valencia!” Oh, Aragon! Oh, 1247!

In Books and libraries, Cross-cultural encounters & comparisons, Europe, Islam, Spain on August 16, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I received an email yesterday that caused me to lean back from my desk, look up, and audibly whisper “oh, wow, now that’s just incredibly cool.”

The message brought word of a new digital program by the J. Paul Getty Trust called “open content.” In the words of a press release of August 12, the goal of the program is “to share, freely and without restriction, as many of the Getty’s digital resources as possible” (emphasis added, with joy). The press release continues:

The initial focus of the Open Content Program is to make available all images of public domain artworks in the Getty’s collections. Today we’ve taken a first step toward this goal by making roughly 4,600 high-resolution images of the Museum’s collection free to use, modify, and publish for any purpose. These are high-resolution, reproduction-quality images with embedded metadata, some over 100 megabytes in size.

If the idea of free, unrestricted, high-res, metadata-rich images of great art touches a chord deep inside you, I hope you’ll join me for a moment in jumping up and down in glee.

Hands from Vidal MayorNaturally, I immediately had to check out the search gateway and start browsing—in particular, to look for images with legal themes. And I found some great ones.

Today, I’ve been captivated by images from an illuminated medieval manuscript called the Vidal Mayor. This beauty has nothing to do with mayors or with anyone named Sassoon. Instead, it’s the essential redaction of laws of thirteenth-century Aragon—and before this admittedly just somewhat obscure idea causes anyone click “back” on their browser, let me share what this means.

Read the rest of this entry »