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Diego Melo Carrasco: Las relaciones fronterizas entre Granada y Castilla (siglos XIII-XV). Un estudio a partir de Las Treguas, Granada: La Editorial Universidad de Granada 2021, 250 S., ISBN 9788433868237, EUR 18,00
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Rezension von:
Villaverde Moreno Javier
Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Javier Albarrán Iruela
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Villaverde Moreno Javier: Rezension von: Diego Melo Carrasco: Las relaciones fronterizas entre Granada y Castilla (siglos XIII-XV). Un estudio a partir de Las Treguas, Granada: La Editorial Universidad de Granada 2021, in: sehepunkte 21 (2021), Nr. 12 [15.12.2021], URL: http://www.sehepunkte.de
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Diego Melo Carrasco: Las relaciones fronterizas entre Granada y Castilla (siglos XIII-XV)

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Cross-border studies on the Iberian Peninsula in the Middle Ages remain in formidable shape. It has been decades since Spanish historians turned their attention to the Iberian medieval past with the aim of analysing cross-border phenomena. In this regard, they found a subject matter which offered multiple possibilities, capable of being addressed from many theoretical approaches. The consequent result is an abundant scientific output that, as Diego Melo shows, continues to demonstrate that frontiers and their study are an inexhaustible source for historic studies.

Of all the medieval peninsular borders, there is a "frontier par excellence" which is the one between the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada and the Crown of Castile, as the brilliant prologue of this book indicates. Thus, this frontier constituted a space of conflict, but also of coexistence, which is the core idea that the author tries to convey throughout the six chapters of his book. It should be mentioned as well that it is a compilation of previous papers that are now being presented to the reader in an organised manner. Furthermore, this compilation also adds highly valuable complements, such as the prologue of María Jesús Viguera, a renowned author in Nasrid matters, the annexes in which two papers are included regarding different aspects of the life on the Nasrid frontier, and a generous bibliography of more than thirty pages. In a nutshell, this piece constitutes an orderly and well-documented synthesis of more than a decade of research devoted to the Nasrid frontier.

This compilation of papers revolves around a key objective: to present this frontier as a place where both cultures met and coexisted. For this purpose, Melo has worked with specific documentation, i.e., the truce agreements between Granada and Castile. These sources, mainly Castilian, have been examined by the author with the use of a novel methodology in this field of study: the quantitative method. Their recompilation, systematisation and classification according to different criteria (date, place of signature, time extension of the truce, commercial relationships, etc.) and the production of a series of spreadsheets is what helps realising tendencies and realities which are harder to find when using analytical methods, more common in the field of the humanities. This systematisation, numbering and calculation of the data are the most original and attractive feature of this work.

The first chapter begins with a general approximation to the concept of truce between Granada and Castile, addressing the specific aspects that were present throughout two and a half centuries of coexistence. In this section, one finds a panoramic view of the frontier, focused on the institutions, activities, and trades that took place there, according to the abovementioned truce documents. Therefore, in order to establish a framework for coexistence, both administrations regulated some activities such as trade and the opening of dry-docks for the collection of taxes. The primary sources speak of derechos acostumbrados. Moreover, these sources also mention the use of common pastures and even the activities of merchants and smugglers who avoided both taxes and prohibitions on the exchange of certain forbidden products, namely, arms and horses. The general look of this chapter is completed through the clauses of these primary sources which tried to ensure the liberty of persons in wartime, so that they could avoid captivity, as well as those speaking of the institutions in charge of negotiating and repairing those damages provoked in such a conflictive space. Regarding the latter, these are the jueces de las querellas, alcaldes entre moros y cristianos, fieles del rastro, or the famous alfaqueques in charge of redeeming captives.

The second chapter is revealing of the author's quantitative methodology. Melo describes his method as an analysis tool. Thanks to the resulting graphics, the researcher has available a statistic analysis of the truces between Granada and Castile that states a clear periodisation divided into three general phases (initial, middle, and final). The initial phase from the 13th century to the mid-14th century is known as "vassalage and violence" and is marked by the Pact of Jaen (1246), which determined the vassalage of Granada to Castile. The middle phase of "dispersion and peace" finishes during the early 15th century. Throughout this middle phase, peace and truce became more relevant than war itself. Lastly, the final phase, which lasted until 1492, was characterised by "border conflict and violence". Thus, one finds an unstable 15th century, marked by a large number of very short-lived truce treaties.

The third chapter revolves around the clauses of the truces that related to trade between Granada and Castile. Here, the author presents a description of the products that were exchanged, as well as those whose trade was forbidden. The taxes regarding the exit and entry of goods are also mentioned in this section. Due to the quantitative analysis, it is possible to acknowledge the relevance of the exchange of agricultural and livestock goods for life on the frontier. The data demonstrate that the livelihoods obtained through trade constituted a crucial contribution to the daily life of the inhabitants of the frontier.

The systematic analysis of the vassalage and the polemic payment of parias is encompassed in the fourth chapter. In this section the author explains the Castilian superiority regarding the Muslims of Granada, who were forced to accept the Castilian king as their lord and to pay a significant rent in maravedis until 1295 and, thereafter, in gold doubloons. In this reviewer's opinion, one of the most interesting spreadsheets in this book is a chart in which the year and the specific price of the parias can be consulted. It can be seen how the quantity increases over time, generally speaking. For instance, it is during the reign of Juan II (1406-1454) that the amounts demanded by Castile from Granada reached their historical maximum. In this context, the author suggests two different causes for the increase in the fees of the parias: the devaluation of the currency and the imperative need of many 15th century emirs of Granada to seek alliances with the Castilian king in order to consolidate their authority on the Alhambra throne.

A special guest to this book is Francisco Vidal Castro, who co-authored the fifth chapter with Melo. This section is devoted to the study of the most predatory activity on the frontier: the captivity. This was a common evil, shared by the inhabitants of both sides of the border. This chapter explains in general terms this phenomenon, making reference to the specific characteristics of this practice. In this regard, one of these features is the search for economic benefit. It resulted more profitable to sell the captives to their families than exporting them to foreign markets. Furthermore, it stresses the strategic importance of the captive as a bargaining chip for another captive, or as a pressure factor in the negotiations between Granada and Castile.

Finally, the sixth part of this book focuses on the formal aspects of the truces between Castile, Aragon and Granada. On the basis of a comprehensive bibliography and with an ability to organise formal data (date and place of signature, date and place of signature, duration, or language, among others) the author provides some interesting conclusions. The data reveals a clear determination to maintain a minimum level of coexistence to ensure the habitability of the frontier. This desire was expressed in the truces of mutual necessity, which were the manifestation of the common necessity for a precarious equilibrium, constantly threatened by the breaking of the truce. Precisely, the author stresses that, beyond being an area of friction and conflict, daily life and peaceful relations were necessary for the inhabitants of the frontier.

Villaverde Moreno Javier