This page presents information related to the third class session of J. B. Owens's fall 2002 upper-division undergraduate and graduate course, History 360/560, The Spanish Empire. This course is part of the core curriculum in comparative and world history of the Department of History, Idaho State University. The sole purpose of this page is to provide an orientation to the reading assignments and class session for those students enrolled in History 360/560. See the source page for the complete Dublin Core standard metadata.

You may return to the course main page or to the reading assignments and lecture topics page.

ASSIGNMENT: A preliminary bibliography, in ASCII ("plain text," "DOS text") for your project must be sent to my e-mail address ( by 1:00 pm on Tuesday, 10 September. The bibliographic form must correspond to the course style sheet. Failure to submit this bibliography on time will give you a GRADE OF "0" for the project as a whole.

Iberian monarchies between Mediterranean and Atlantic

An examination of the developing social and cultural environments of the major Iberian kingdoms of the period after the initial outbreak of the "Black Death." The focus will be on the "Aragonese Empire," Castile-León, and Portugal that had developed out of the assault on Muslim Al-Andalus from the peripheral conquest points of Asturias-León and Barcelona-Catalunya. In addition to mounted warriors, attention will be given to merchants, lawyers, and the "piety-minded." A discussion of fifteenth-century economic opportunities viewed from Iberian perspectives. We will also consider the Saharan caravans linking the peripheral zones of West Africa and the western Mediterranean.

Reading: Burkholder and Johnson, pp. 23-32; Payne, vol. I, pp. vii-ix, chs. 6 and 8, and pp. 188-198; Thornton, introduction and ch. 1.

  1. Why had the vast majority of the population of Muslim-governed Iberia converted to Islam and become Arabic speaking by about 800 C.E.?
  2. What factors permitted the Iberian Umayyad Caliphate to become a prosperous, populous, and highly-urbanized region in contrast to much of the rest of Western Europe?
  3. What factors led to the dramatic collapse of Iberian Muslim political and military power in the early thirteenth century?
  4. What impact did the Reconquista have on the social and cultural environments of the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa?
  5. Why didn't the Christian warrior monarchs expel the Arabic-speaking Muslim and Jewish population from conquered territories? To what extent was it possible to maintain the economic networks of a region after its conquest by a Christian ruler?
  6. What factors allowed Iberian Christian urban centers to play a major role in the intellectual development of Western Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries?
  7. What sources of capital made possible the economic development of the Iberian Peninsula during the Reconquista period?
  8. What impact did the moving frontier of the Reconquista have on the roles and conception of women in the social and cultural environments of the various Iberian Christian kingdoms?
  9. What impact did the moving frontier of the Reconquista have on the development of institutions of municipal self-government?
  10. What was the significance for Iberian life of the development of the mendicant orders (e.g., Dominicans, Franciscans)?
  11. What factors led to the creation and development of the redemptionist monastic orders in the Iberian Peninsula (e.g., Mercedarians, Trinitarians)?
  12. What impact did the appropriation by Iberian intellectuals of cultural products of late Roman antiquity have on the social and cultural environments of their kingdoms in the plague era?
  13. Why did Iberian monarchs make frequent use of representative institutions (Cortes, Corts)?
  14. Why was there a sharp increase from the late fourteenth century of violent Christian assaults on Jewish and Muslim communities in the Christian kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula?
  15. What was the social and intellectual significance of the technological innovation of printing with movable type?
  16. Why was Portugal relatively free of the aristocratic civil wars that so troubled neighboring Castile in the plague era?
  17. What factors contributed to the rise in importance of an Iberian territorial aristocracy in the plague era?
  18. Why did Iberian monarchs make increasing use of university-trained intellectuals (both churchmen and secular letrados) in their administrations?
  19. Why did the political institutions of major Iberian cities and towns increasingly fall under the control of a relatively small number of wealthy, mutually-hostile families? What was the significance of this narrowing of the base of municipal political authority for the development of monarchical institutions?
  20. Why did Ferdinand and Isabella obtain papal permission for the establishment of a royally-supervised Castilian Inquisition, later extended to the eastern Iberian kingdoms? Why wasn't this institution extended to their non-Iberian kingdoms like Sardinia, Sicily, and later Naples?
  21. Why did the Trastámara rulers Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castile decide to pursue more vigorously than during any time since the thirteenth century war against the remaining Muslim emirate of the Peninsula, Granada?
  22. Why did Ferdinand and Isabella decide to expel from their Iberian kingdoms all of their Jewish subjects who refused to convert to Christianity?
  23. Why did king Manuel of Portugal decide to expel from his kingdom all of his Jewish subjects who refused to convert to Christianity?
  24. What impact did the expulsion of Sephardic Jews have on the social and cultural environments of the Iberian kingdoms?
  25. Why did messianic ideas become a prominent part of the cultural environment of some Iberian monastic orders in the fifteenth century?
  26. Why did so many of the Sephardic Jews migrate to the Ottoman empire?
  27. Why did the royal governments of much of the Iberian Peninsula begin to adopt in the early sixteenth century the policies of those Church leaders who wanted to force the conversion to Christianity of their Muslim subjects?
  28. Why were Iberian political authorities so determined to regulate economic activities?
  29. What were the major social, economic, political, and cultural features of the Iberian monarchies that stimulated exploration and conquest overseas?
  30. What major technological innovations were made by Iberian peoples in shipbuilding, navigation, and naval warfare?
  31. Why have historians paid so much more attention to European migration to the Americas in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries than to the much larger African migration?
  32. "Is it correct to see Africa as being on a lower level of development than Europe and this imbalance as being the cause for the slave trade?" (Thornton, p. 6)
  33. "Did Africans participate in the Atlantic trade as equal partners, or were they the victims of European power and greed?" (Thornton, p. 6)
  34. "Were the African slaves in the Americas too brutalized to express themselves culturally and socially, and thus, to what degree was their specifically African background important in shaping Afro-American culture?" (Thornton, p. 6)
  35. Was the Atlantic trade "economically essential to African well-being or development" (Thornton, p. 7)?
  36. Why were Africans able to control "the nature of their interactions with Europe" (Thornton, p. 7)?
  37. Why did Cape Bojador represent such an obstacle for Europeans trying to reach by sea African regions further south?
  38. What role did wind and current play in the construction of the Atlantic world in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries?
  39. What were the three great river systems of West Africa?
  40. What were the great rivers of West Central Africa?
  41. What American river systems were connected to the Atlantic zone?
  42. Why were European shipbuilders the first to construct adequate vessels for long-distance voyages in the Atlantic?
  43. Why did Portuguese mariners increasingly undertake in the fifteenth century voyages into parts of the Atlantic previously unknown to them?
  44. Why was West African gold of such importance to European commercial life?
  45. Why did the Portuguese monarch João II become the first ruler of his kingdom to sponsor Atlantic expeditions?
  46. Why did sugar become a major export crop for the Madeira Islands despite their somewhat isolated location out in the Atlantic?
  47. Why were Europeans able to dominate Atlantic trade in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries while they were unable to do so in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea?
  48. Why didn't Europeans conquer parts of West Africa and enslave the population as they had conquered the Canary Islands and enslaved the people there?
  49. Why did the Portuguese so willingly give up in West Africa their patterns of trade-and-raid or raid-and-conquer? Since the Portuguese were so willing to insert themselves into the peaceful trading relations in West Africa, why were they later so unwilling to so insert themselves into the equally peaceful trading relations of India?
  50. What factors permitted Castilian wool to become an important commodity in European trade?
  51. Why did the Castilian cities of Burgos and Medina del Campo emerge as important European economic centers in the late fifteenth century?
  52. Why did the wool trade from northern Castile to northern Europe become such an important economic and social factor in the lives of people in central and southern Castile?

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J. B. Owens
All rights reserved.

Revised: 27 August 2002