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Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire

Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire

Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
Course No.  899
Course No.  899
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Course Overview

About This Course

12 lectures  |  31 minutes per lecture

In 1492, there was no country called Spain and no language called Spanish. The biggest event of the year, in the region that would become Spain, was the surrender of the last Muslim stronghold, Granada. The Edict of Expulsion gave Jews three months to either convert to Christianity or leave the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon.

In other words, there is a different 1492, than the one most of us know, one that is more complete and more complex.

This 12-lecture course uses 1492 as a focal point to follow events that enabled Spain to become a country and then an empire. It examines centuries of developments that led up to that pivotal date in Spanish history, and analyzes the consequences of the events that took place in 1492 for both Spain and the New World.

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In 1492, there was no country called Spain and no language called Spanish. The biggest event of the year, in the region that would become Spain, was the surrender of the last Muslim stronghold, Granada. The Edict of Expulsion gave Jews three months to either convert to Christianity or leave the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon.

In other words, there is a different 1492, than the one most of us know, one that is more complete and more complex.

This 12-lecture course uses 1492 as a focal point to follow events that enabled Spain to become a country and then an empire. It examines centuries of developments that led up to that pivotal date in Spanish history, and analyzes the consequences of the events that took place in 1492 for both Spain and the New World.

A Year that Symbolizes Spanish History

Presented by Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz, a foremost authority on Spanish history and an award-winning teacher and author, this course paints a portrait of 1492 as the centerpiece of the transformation of Spanish society by tying together several key themes:

  • The rise of Castile as the strongest of the Spanish realms, and the reforms of Ferdinand and Isabella. Catholic monarchs built a popular and stable monarchy in Castile—through such measures as new taxes, control of the military, and reform of the church—that enabled Spain to emerge as the most powerful nation in Europe.
  • The end of pluralism. For centuries, the Iberian Peninsula had been a multicultural mix of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. Beginning with the Christian victory over Muslim forces at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, and continuing with developments such as the conquest of Granada and the Edict of Expulsion, both in 1492, Muslims and Jews were either forced to convert to Christianity or sent into exile.
  • The world of Christopher Columbus. Developments such as the recovery of classical knowledge of geography and astronomy, and new knowledge of maps and the use of the compass and astrolabe, enabled Columbus to set sail confidently across the Ocean Sea (Atlantic). Columbus's discoveries gave Spain a foothold in the Caribbean that it used to test colonial institutions, and to explore and conquer Mexico and Central America.

The Experience of Muslims, Jews, and Native Americans: 1492 from "Below"

Today, we associate 1492 with a sense of wonder and discovery. But a major theme of this course is to look at history not only from "above"—the perspective of a victorious Castilian and Christian society—but from below, from the view of the defeated, the outsiders, those seen as "other." For many people of the time, 1492 inspired only despair and terror.

Professor Ruiz conveys a palpable sense of the experiences of Muslims and Jews as they faced the choice of renouncing their religious beliefs or leaving lands that they had called home for centuries. This discussion touches on topics such as the Muslim sense that their civilization was ultimately doomed after the defeat by Christian forces at Toledo in 1085, and the confusion felt by Conversos—Jewish converts to Christianity—who tried to mix elements of Judaism with their new religion and became prime targets of the Inquisition.

You will see how Castilian attitudes toward others were exported to the New World. Spanish accounts of native peoples were ambivalent. They praised natives' simplicity and seeming closeness to God, but labeled them with the same stereotypes that had been applied to Muslims and Jews, and questioned whether they were truly human.

Throughout, these lectures are an opportunity to understand the events of 1492 as they were perceived by people of the time, and to correct misconceptions that linger today. For example, you will learn why Columbus's voyages were not seen as the greatest of his time, that he and his fellow Europeans did not believe the Earth was flat, and that his first voyage did not produce doubts and fear among those who sailed with him.

This 1492, the "other" 1492, will greatly expand and often revise your understanding of one of history's most crucial dates.

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12 Lectures
  • 1
    Europe and the New World in 1492
    The historian Walter Benjamin wrote that "every document of civilization is also a document of barbarity." This lecture broadly evaluates 1492 as an era of great creativity and great destruction, and describes the governing institutions that enabled Castile to take the lead role in both processes. x
  • 2
    Reconquest, Pilgrimage, Crusade, Repopulation
    A religious relic in the small town of Compostela drew a cascade of pilgrims across the Pyrenees to northwest Iberia, many of whom eventually settled along the pilgrimage path. As these Europeans moved further south, Muslim kingdoms called up reinforcements from North Africa, sparking the first real conflict between militant Islam and the Christian West. x
  • 3
    The Transformation of Values
    In the 13th century, the idea of private property evolved from a concept of land jurisdiction to the idea of owning physically bounded space. Laws limiting charitable giving weakened the church and buttressed family wealth. The idea of purgatory allowed the rich to negotiate or "bargain" for salvation, creating a new attitude toward the poor. x
  • 4
    An Age of Crisis
    Isabella's ascent to the throne found the monarchy's power at low tide. Nobles had encroached upon royal lands. Tyrannical elites extorted income from the peasantry, and rival clans warred in the streets. Devout and determined, Isabella tamed the nobility, bringing law and order to a grateful people. x
  • 5
    Isabella and Ferdinand—An Age of Reform
    The monarchy's reform of the church and establishment of a vast, university-trained bureaucracy led to a blossoming of culture in the 16th century. A new class of royal administrators loyal to the crown seized control of municipal power, and the cortes was reduced to a rubber-stamp body. A centralized state in Castile with a "monopoly of legalized violence" was created. x
  • 6
    Iberian Culture in the Fifteenth Century
    15th-century Iberian culture was saturated with Italian humanist thought and strengthened by the growth of a lettered nobility. Conventions of grammar, etiquette, and chivalry informed the popular genre of romance novels, and hierarchically arranged festivals became part of the art of ruling. x
  • 7
    The Conquest of Granada—Muslim Life in Iberia
    The rule of the Caliphate of Cordoba was peaceful and tolerant. Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived, worked, and wrote in a "garden protected by the spears of Islam." The Caliphate's 1031 collapse gave Christian armies the upper hand, and foretold the end of convivencia between the faiths. x
  • 8
    The Edict of Expulsion—Jewish Life in Iberia
    Historians today suggest a range of motivations behind the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492. Some cite militant Christianity and a hatred of Jews dating back to Visigothic times. Others argue that economic elites, jealous of Jewish influence at court and in commerce, simply wished to remove the competition. x
  • 9
    Jews, Conversos, and the Inquisition
    The horrific pogroms of 1391 were followed by unprecedented levels of Jewish conversion to Christianity. Upper and middle-class Conversos blended comfortably into society, while the lower classes remained segregated at the bottom. The Spanish Inquisition, designed to ferret out "secret" Jews, sought to remove the last visible traces of Judaism from Iberia. x
  • 10
    The World of Christopher Columbus
    By 1492, the stated purpose of Columbus's trip was irrelevant. The Portuguese had already passed the Cape of Good Hope, and Vasco da Gama would soon return from his profitable Indian voyage. Columbus, a brilliant sailor, an apocalyptic zealot, and an incompetent administrator, returned from the New World believing he had ushered in a new age. x
  • 11
    The Shock of the New
    The Spanish treatment of the New World's inhabitants was riddled with contradictions, a result of Castile's fundamental failure to comprehend them. The eventual conclusion that they were human beings capable of salvation mitigated the brutality of the conquest. To their credit, the Spanish people were open to mixing and blending with the people of the Americas to build a new society and culture. x
  • 12
    Spain and Its Empire—The Aftermath of 1492
    The legacy of 1492 would be Spain's wrenching entry into world affairs. The ascent of Charles I to the throne of Castile and his election as Holy Roman Emperor committed Spain to a role in the political conflicts of Western Europe. Spain would endure foreign wars, civil unrest, absolute despotism, and economic decline as the cost of empire, but also import its institutions all over the Americas and reap the cultural rewards of a new Golden Age. x

Lecture Titles

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Teofilo F. Ruiz
Ph.D. Teofilo F. Ruiz
University of California, Los Angeles
Dr. Teofilo F. Ruiz is Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles. A student of Joseph R. Strayer, Dr. Ruiz earned his Ph.D. from Princeton University. Prior to taking his post at UCLA, he held teaching positions at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York Graduate Center, the University of Michigan, the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris, and Princeton University-as the 250th Anniversary Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching. In 1994-1995, the Carnegie Foundation selected Professor Ruiz as one of four Outstanding Teachers of the Year in the United States. Professor Ruiz has been the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Dr. Ruiz has published six books, more than 40 articles, and more than 100 reviews and smaller articles in national and international scholarly journals. His Crisis and Continuity, Land and Town in Late Medieval Castile was awarded the Premio del Rey Prize by the American Historical Association.
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Reviews

Rated 4.2 out of 5 by 79 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Different perspective One of Prof. Ruiz's talent's is his ability to present a different point of view. His has a very "gentlemanly, courtly" manner of presentation that suggests a European scholar, which he is. Being Spanish, he is able to discuss the topic of the "Other" 1492 in a unique way. We Americans usually see "1492" as the beginning of "our" history and do not appreciate the context of Columbus' journeys in relation to broader European and world history. We are fortunate to have Ruiz' perspective. I know there are those who criticize Ruiz for his rather heavy Spanish accent. While this is true, it seems to offer even more "atmosphere" for this course. I have found it part of his charm to listen with the accent, and when one transcends that, the content of his lectures is superb. He would especially appeal to those who are interested in the new "social history" approach rather than names/dates/"great man" approach. In spite of Ruiz' somewhat "traditional" Old World style, his content is sparkling, lively and even controversial. Viva Ruiz! May 29, 2009
Rated 2 out of 5 by Pompous course The language of the presentation is very inflated, pompous, dramatic, and more importantly repetitive. After you complete the course you are left with a vague feeling of 1492s significance. The best way I can describe the course is too much drama with little substance. I certainly do not recommend this course to others and especially to my friends with whom I often have great discussions about great courses. July 13, 2014
Rated 4 out of 5 by 1492: Good value, nice general overview After reading some of the negative reviews of this course I was reluctant to make this purchase. However, I am really interested in the topic so I found a good sale and went for it. It seems that the 3 main negatives I gleaned from some reviews were not really noticeable to me. 1) I didn't not think the professor's accent was too hard to understand. Sure he mispronounced some words, but you totally knew what he was talking about. 2) I didn't think he was presenting the times in any sort of biased racism against the Christians of the time. He was just telling it like it really was. And to be fair, he also told of the good things the Christians did and also equally discussed the wrongs and rights of the Muslims and Jews of the time as well. 3) I agree with some reviewers that some of the content was wanting regarding how deep the professor discussed certain points. But I didn't find this to be a negative either. This was certainly an overview. And you are not going to be an expert on the topic after taking this course. But it is only 12 lectures long. I consider this a great primer for further inquiry and I highly recommend it. I bought the audio only version and I thought it was just fine fyi. July 6, 2014
Rated 4 out of 5 by No rain in the Plains...? Audio download...with online help from GoogleEarth. Dr Ruiz's lectures reminded me of the visiting professor lectures I had during graduate school...with lectures less about the 'when' and 'how' and much more about the 'why', of cultural evolution in the 15th century Castile/Spain. Truly, this is a thought-provoking seminar that is congenially presented, with a style that is both different and refreshing. The elimination of pluralism in Iberia had long puzzled me. While I think the effects of the Spanish Inquisition was somewhat downplayed, I found the treatment of the Jews and Muslims somewhat appalling...especially in light of the history of tolerance shown by the 'Moors'. Finally, I enjoyed the treatment of Columbus, largely putting things into a contemporary context. Good job. Makes me want to learn more about the expansion into the Americas, as well as what led to the Spanish Armada... June 4, 2014
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