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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

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

Course No. 899
Professor Teofilo F. Ruiz, Ph.D.
University of California, Los Angeles
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4.3 out of 5
106 Reviews
73% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 899
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Course Overview

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
 |  31 minutes each
  • 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

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Video DVD
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  • Ability to download 12 audio lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 72-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
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CD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 6 CDs
  • 72-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE audio streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 72-page printed course guidebook
  • Maps
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider

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Your professor

Teofilo F. Ruiz

About Your Professor

Teofilo F. Ruiz, Ph.D.
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...
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Other 1492: Ferdinand, Isabella, and the Making of an Empire is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 106.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Appropriate Good information, but lecturer has an annoying habit of constantly using the "I" word in references to research. Almost seems as if he is intent on impressing the audience with his credentials.
Date published: 2017-08-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overview of a pivotal period I bought this course in preparation for a vacation in Spain and it greatly increased my appreciation of so much that I saw there. Professor Ruiz presents the material in a lively and clear manner. I loved it! I only wish video had been available.
Date published: 2017-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Dense Analysis It took me a long time to get through this course. I have an appreciation for the Spanish, speak some Spanish. Most people seem to feel that, well, the Brits won, the Spanish were done, way back when. This is a sad story, this course. It's about persecuting Muslims and Jews, genocide. It's about how meaningless, or destructive, the Columbus voyages were. We live with delusional versions of history. But this is what modernity turns out to be. This is a remarkable story, but it drives home the point that there are very few constraints on human behavior. We do what works for us, in the short term, and that's it. We can't fix that kind of thinking. If you want to be a decent human being, it is going to be very hard.
Date published: 2017-07-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I'm currently walking the Camino de Santiago through Spain and listening to these lectures along this incredible path of history. Very informative and a great help in understanding the cultural history of this land and it's people. Viva Espania
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic This course is excellent. Professor Ruiz presents not commonly known history of the Iberian Peninsula that led to the empire which accomplished so much. His knowledge and passion about the subject matter is impressive. He presents his information clearly, and does so with regard to context and significance. The course succeeds 100% in presenting information in a way that includes the impact on people who lived through the era. I like his teaching style. He's concise, moves at a pace that is interesting and easy to retain, and at the beginning of every lecture summarizes the previous one. Even the course outline book is way above average!
Date published: 2017-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course The professor is fantastic in every way. He has an enthusiasm that is contagious and subject knowledge that is second to none. I could listen to him all day. The information I received was a complete surprise to me . I always associated 1492 completely with Columbus' voyage and had little idea of the rich history of the Iberian peninsula. This course exceeded all of my expectations .
Date published: 2017-02-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Fascinating But Biased AUDIO DOWNLOAD This is my second TC course with Professor Ruiz, the first being the equally fascinating ‘Medieval Europe: Crisis and Renewal’. I found this subject so interesting that I listened twice to the twelve lectures of this 2002 TC course. Professor Ruiz’s accent can be confusing at times (is he the TC Ricardo Montalban?), but that should not detract from his very interesting account. 1492 for us today looms large as the year of Columbus’ sailing to the New World, “a mythical year in Spanish and world history” (Course Guidebook, Page 3). Professor Ruiz rightly contends that for Columbus’ contemporaries there were many more important developments in1492. It is a much more significant marker, for example, for the fall of Muslim Granada and the expulsion of the Jews. Professor Ruiz’s major point is that “Late medieval Spain was a multicultural and multilingual society. Toleration of religious minorities and respect for other linguistic groups were practiced … until the mid-fourteenth century. By then, conflict between different groups increased dramatically. By the early sixteenth century, this plurality had been erased from Spanish society, and Castilian emerged as the dominant language” (Page 4). He provides good detail to support his positions and does so in a quite engaging manner. Along the way, he references the work of other scholars, not only for support but also to point out areas of disagreement, as well as areas that will likely never be known with certainty. Professor Ruiz is especially good at explaining the changes in cultural values and mentality (social history being his strong point), as well as the standard economic, political, and military “antecedents”/ developments. He reaches back into Visigoth Spain, the Muslim invasion of 711, developments in the centuries leading up to 1492 and into the early sixteenth century, and Spain’s activities in the New World. Despite my overall satisfaction with this course, I have some personal concerns. As he notes early on, Professor Ruiz’s is a view “from below” (Page 3), not just from the perspective of the “victors”. While this provides an interesting story, it often signals suspicion of motives of those “above” and a focus on issues of power and control. There is quite a bit of those perspectives in this course, often well-justified, but sometimes heavy-handed or one-sided. (I have come to think of Professor Ruiz as my favorite TC lefty, since his revisionism is quite apparent and above board.) While Professor Ruiz does an excellent job on the condition and plight of Jews in Spain, including the Inquisition (set up to deal with converted Jews, Conversos or New Christians), I would have appreciated more on Moorish or Muslim Spain. There is little on the conflicts within this territory and how the conflicts with Spanish Christians fit into the larger picture of contemporary Muslim expansion/conquest. While the Muslim religion practiced in Moorish Spain was historically tolerant of others, there is only passing reference to the “more orthodox” and “fundamentalist” North African Muslims who invaded Spain in the twelfth century and no mention of their particularly harsh treatment of non-converting Jews and Christians. Also, while Professor Ruiz highlights the “international” (Page 7) character of the forces commanded by Alfonso VIII of Castile at the decisive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, he does not mention that Alfonso lost the support of a sizable contingent of French and other European forces before the battle due, in part, to his comparatively lenient policy toward Jews and Muslims. I am not sure if passing over matters such as these can be attributed to lack of time, or that they just do not fit in well with Professor Ruiz’s overall narrative of the Reconquista, privileging one side (those “below”) over the other (the “victors”). In fact, for Professor Ruiz, “Reconquista” is a misnomer, as the Christians were not so much reconquering as conquering territory that had never really been theirs (even though they might see themselves as inheritors of the Christian Visigoths overthrown by the 711 Muslim invasion). Nevertheless, despite my concerns, I still find Professor Ruiz’s treatment of the Reconquista illuminating and as such it added appreciably to my understanding. Professor Ruiz casts his lot with much prevailing trendy scholarship and even popular opinion critical of Christopher Columbus. While lecture ten is a good treatment of Columbus within the context of European voyages of discovery, it is marred for me by Professor Ruiz’s not being content with taking Columbus’ achievement down a few pegs but also charging him, in the audio lecture, with being a “religious fanatic” whose voyage “was not a great deal, not essentially a big deal”. I got the feeling from the lecture that Columbus was quite disreputable, and that generations of historians had puffed his accomplishment way out of proportion. The audio of lecture eleven, however, dials this back in starting out by saying “…please allow me not to diminish [Columbus’] accomplishment”. Not an elegant treatment, but it does prod one to wonder what the truth may be about Columbus between supposed uncritical admirers and the present-day debunkers. The sixty-seven page course guidebook is fine, with all of the usual components. I do, however, wish that there were more maps. The one for Spain in 1491 is barely adequate for the audio course. I assume the video version has many more maps and other supporting visuals to offer.
Date published: 2016-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An important history not to be missed Within decades of the joining of the crowns of Castile and Aragon, "Spain" as we more commonly know it, emerged not only as a leading European power but set the stage for a century or more as the global superpower. Because Ferdinand and Isabella are often presented solely as supporting characters in the Columbus saga, their story, and the story of their nascent kingdom is often overlooked. Isabella particularly is a fascinating historical figure in her own right and deserves a closer look. Professor Ruiz does a great job exploring and explaining this often untold history. He has an excellent command of the topic and delivers a succinct, evenly delivered series of lectures. If you have any interest in European history and the origins of the Spanish Empire, this is an excellent course not to be missed. Finally, in response to other reviews, anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of this epoch, most likely, will not find anything particularly "controversial" in these lectures, and for what it's worth, i found Professor Ruiz's accent to be, if anything, charming.
Date published: 2016-07-26
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