Sunday, 25 May 2014

First Contact: When Wampanoags Met Europeans

Pilgrims and Wampanoags at Thanksgiving
When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth in 1620, they were worried about how they would get along with New England’s ‘wild men.’ However, the Pilgrims found Cape Cod and Plymouth eerily quiet, and Native American villages had been emptied of occupants by a smallpox-like plague. The Pilgrims praised God for his foresight in clearing their new home of rivals, and survived their first New England winter by raiding the Indians’ cemeteries and storehouses for corn.

The Massachusetts tribe may have been nearly extinct, but it wasn’t long before the Plymouth settlers met other Indian neighbors. The Wampanoags, led by Massasoit, quickly allied themselves with the Englishmen. Other tribes proved less friendly. The Narragansetts sent a challenge to the English in the form of arrows tied with a snakeskin. The Pilgrim leaders filled the snakeskin with lead shot and returned it as a signal that they, too, were prepared for war.

Ships from England arrived steadily, and new settlements sprang up in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Near New London, the Pequot tribe pushed back against encroaching settlers, and the first war between English settlers and Native Americans took place in 1637. Due to the English army’s overwhelming arms advantage – muskets and steel armor vs. bows and arrows – it ended quickly. Pequots who managed to escape death joined other tribes, and captives were sold into slavery. New England’s tribes remembered that harsh lesson, and it took nearly forty years for the next war to erupt.

However, by 1675 New England’s tribes were chafing under English rule. Game was disappearing, English cattle raided their crops, the fur-bearing animals they once traded to the Englishmen were trapped out, and the English settlers no longer wanted wampum manufactured by New England’s tribes. Worst of all, English settlers encroached deep into Indian land on all fronts. Wampanoag raids began in the summer of 1675, and quickly broke into open warfare.  They were led by Massasoit’s grandson, Metacomet, known as King Philip by his English neighbors. Though the Wampanoags were joined by Narragansetts, Nipmucks, Sakonnets, and Pocassets, the Indians’ defeat was inevitable.

I am now at work on the manuscript which will complete my trilogy about Herodias Long of Rhode Island, and King Philip’s War looms large on my horizon. The Pilgrims and Puritans left many descriptions of New England’s Indians, but I wondered if the Native American culture was altered by the time the Pilgrims arrived in 1620. After all, by the time the Pilgrims arrived, Europeans had been coming to America for many years for fish, furs, and timber. The Pilgrims found an iron kettle in a cache of corn, and the Indians possessed other English goods, so, how else had they changed? For comparison, I sought out the first contact between Europeans and New England’s Indians.

Giovanni da Verrazano
In January 1524, Captain Giovanni da Verrazano captained a single ship, manned by only fifty men. He hoped to find new lands for France (the sponsor of his journey) and a short cut to China. That hope was dashed, but Verrazano was the first European since the Vikings to explore the American coast.

Verrazano’s ship, La Dauphine, departed the Canary Islands on January 17, 1524. They reached Cape Fear, North Carolina about March 1, and Pamlico Sound soon afterward. In the Cape Fear area, Verrazano wrote, We had seen many people who came to the shore of the sea and seeing us approach fled, sometimes halting, turning back, looking with great admiration. Reassuring them by various signs, some of them approached, showing great delight at seeing us, marveling at our clothes, figures and whiteness, making to us various signs where we could land more conveniently with the small boat, offering to us of their foods.

Verrazano and his men made contact with the tidewater Indians, though not without trepidation. One young sailor swam near to shore with to toss bells and mirrors to the Indians, but was then overwhelmed by the waves. The Indians ran to carry him ashore, and the alarmed lad uttered very loud cries. The Indians replied in kind, hoping to show him that he should not fear. Then they laid him on the ground, stripped off his wet shirt and hose, and built a large fire nearby. Verrazano, watching from shipboard, was not the only one who thought the sailor was about to be roasted for food. However, the lad revived, and when he was ready to go back to the ship’s boat, the Indians, holding him always close with various embraces, accompanied him as far as the sea.

In the vicinity of Delaware, Verrazano found the inhabitants more fearful. He and his men met two women with a half-dozen children, but the rest of the villagers had fled. They gave the women food, which the old woman ate with gusto, but a younger one threw to the ground. Verrazano took a young boy to carry to France, and tried to take the young woman as well, who was of much beauty and of tall stature. She cried out so that the sailors released her, but kept the boy.

That unfortunate Indian lad was one of many who were kidnapped over the centuries, including Tisquantum/Squanto, who learned English from his captors before returning to New England in 1617. He proved to be a godsend to the Pilgrims in 1621, introducing them to Massasoit and other tribal leaders, and teaching the Pilgrims how to grow crops in weather harsher than they had known in England. However, the kidnapping of Squanto and other New England Indians no doubt added to the fear displayed by the Indians whom the Pilgrims encountered. 

1556 map of New York and Newport harbors
At the Hudson River Verrazano saw many inhabitants, clothed with the feathers of birds of various colors, [who] came toward us joyfully, uttering very great exclamations of admiration. Verrazano’s ship sailed along Long Island and passed Block Island, which Verrazano described like the island of Rhodes, full of hills, covered with trees. 

Then the ship entered Narragansett Bay. Verrazano found a beautiful port which he named Refugio – we know it as Newport. When La Dauphine entered the port, Verrazano said about twenty barges full of people approached the ship. They stopped about fifty paces away, then altogether uttered a loud shout, signifying that they were glad. Having them somewhat, imitating their gestures, they came so near that we threw them some little bells and mirrors and many trinkets, having taken which, regarding them with laughter, they entered the ship confidently.

Ninigret of the Niantics
This was the first meeting between Europeans and the Wampanoags, the tribe which would save the Pilgrims’ lives a century later. Verrazano’s account of the Wampanoags in their pre-contact state is worth relating here at length (slightly abridged): There were among them two Kings, of as good stature and form as it would be possible to tell; the first of about XXXX years, the other a young man of XXIIII years, the clothing of whom was thus: the older had on his nude body a skin of a stag, artificially adorned like a damask with various embroideries; the head bare, the hair turned back with various bands, at the neck a broad chain ornamented with many stones of diverse colors. The young man was almost in the same style.

This is the most beautiful people and the most civilized in customs that we have found in this navigation. They excel us in size; they are of bronze color, some inclining more to whiteness, others to tawny color; the face sharply cut, the hair long and black, upon which they bestow the greatest study in adorning; the eyes black and alert, the bearing kind and gentle, imitating much the ancient [manner]. Of other parts of the body I will not speak to your Majesty, having all the proportions which belong to every well built man. Their women are of the same beauty and charm; very graceful; of comely mien and agreeable aspect; of habits and behavior as much according to womanly custom as pertains to human nature; they go nude with only one skin of the stag embroidered like the men, and some wear on the arms very rich skins of the lynx; the head bare, with various arrangements of braids, composed of their own hair, which hang on one side and the other of the breast. Some use other hair-arrangements like the women of Egypt and of Syria use, and these are they who are advanced in age and are joined in wedlock.

They have in the ears various pendent trinkets as the orientals are accustomed to have, the men like the women, among which we saw many plates wrought from copper, by whom it is prized more than gold; which, on account of its color, they do not esteem; on the other hand rating blue and red above any other. That which they were given by us which they most valued were little bells, blue crystals and other trinkets to place in the ears and on the neck. They did not prize cloth of silk and of gold nor even of other kind, nor did they care to have them; likewise with metals like steel and iron, for many times showing them our arms they did not conceive admiration for them nor ask for them, only examining the workmanship. They did the same with the mirrors; suddenly looking at them, they refused them laughing.

Physical descriptions of Wampanoags and Narragansetts by 17th century settlers vary little from Verrazano’s writings. However, the Indians quickly came to prize English clothing, replaced dyed porcupine quills and wampum beads made from clam shells with glass beads, and used buttons, bells, coins, and other English trinkets as ornaments. Mary Rowlandson was captured by the Narragansetts during King Philip’s War, and described her captors at a dance: He was dressed in his Holland shirt with great laces sewed at the tail of it; he had his silver buttons, his white stockings, his garters were hung round with shillings, and he had girdles of wampum upon his head and shoulders. She had a kersey coat and [was] covered with girdles of wampum from her loins upward; her arms from her elbows to her hands were covered with bracelets; there were handfuls of necklaces about her neck and several sorts of jewels in her ears. She had fine red stockings and white shoes, her hair was powdered and face painted red.

Back to Verrazano: They [the Wampanoags] are very liberal, so much so that all which they have they give away. We formed a great friendship with them, and one day, before we had entered with the ship in the port, remaining on account of the unfavorable weather conditions anchored a league at sea, they came in great numbers in their little barges to the ship, having painted and decked the face with various colors, showing to us it was evidence of good feeling, bringing to us of their food, signaling to us where for the safety of the ship we ought anchor in the port, continually accompanying us until we cast anchor there.

Verrazano may have admired the hospitality, beauty, and civility of the Wampanoags, but New England’s settlers during the 17th century were less kind. They barred Indians from living among them, and even Roger Williams, who lived with the Narragansetts, described one of their chiefs as a ‘wise and peaceful prince,’ and wrote a dictionary of their language, described Indians as ‘barbarous scum and the offscourings of mankind.’ And though the Englishmen accused the Indians of theft, the Pilgrims raided Indian villages and cemeteries for artifacts which took their fancy, and stole their seed corn.

We remained XV days, supplying ourselves with many necessities; where every day the people came to see us at the ship, bringing their women, of whom they are very careful: because entering the ship themselves, remaining a long time, they made their women stay in the barges, and however many entreaties we made them, offering to give them various things, it was not possible that they would allow them to enter the ship. And one of the two Kings coming many times with the Queen and many attendants through their desire to see us, at first always stopped on a land distant from us two hundred paces, sending a boat to inform us of their coming, saying they wished to come to see the ship; doing this for a kind of safety. And when they had the response from us, they came quickly, and having stood awhile to look, hearing the noisy clamor of the sailor crowd, sent the Queen with her damsels in a very light barge to stay on a little island distant from us a quarter of a league ... And one time, our people remaining two or three days on a little island near the ship for various necessities as is the custom of sailors, [the king] came with seven or eight of his attendants, watching our operations, asking many times if we wished to remain there for a long time, offering us his every help. Then, shooting with the bow, running, he performed with his attendants various games to give us pleasure. This description of archery and games is very similar to the Thanksgiving the Pilgrims shared with their Indian neighbors.

My conclusion is that the Wampanoag and Narragansett cultures were not much altered between the arrivals of Verrazano in 1524 and of the Pilgrims in 1620. However, the Indians were quick to adapt, eagerly seeking English clothes and ornaments. They were equally avid to possess guns, but the English settlers tried to keep their armaments to themselves. As King Philip’s War demonstrated, those efforts were unsuccessful.

Verrazano's 1524 exploration
As for Captain da Verrazano, after his time with the Wampanoags, Verrazano and his crew passed along lower Cape Cod, then set off across the sea to France. In 1527 Verrazano returned to the New World, this time to Brazil, and returned to Europe with a cargo of brazil wood. A year later, Verrazano explored Florida, the Bahamas, and the Lesser Antilles. When he rowed ashore, probably on Guadeloupe, he was killed and cannibalized by the island’s Carib inhabitants.

Verrazano’s voyage along the Atlantic coast of North America, 1524  Giovanni da Verrazano
Of Plymouth Plantation  William Bradford
Flintlock and Tomahawk, 1958  Douglas Leach
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, 1682   Mary Rowlandson

Sunday, 18 May 2014

He Who Commissioned Castle Howard: Charles, 3rd Earl of Carlisle

This weekend, I had the great honour of visiting Castle Howard in Yorkshire, England. This great building, though largely made in the 18th-century, was commissioned in 1699, so it's fair game here. There is only word to describe Castle Howard, and that!

© Andrea Zuvich 2014

With its design by English Baroque architects Sir John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor, Castle Howard is one of the great gems of late 17th/early 18th century architecture. Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor were also behind the Baroque extravaganza which is Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England, as well as other fabulous buildings, including the Orangery at Kensington Palace. Whilst we were there, my husband asked me several questions about its history - including who commissioned the building. That's a very good question, so why don't we find out more about Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, and his role in the creation of the great Castle Howard.

Indeed, with a visit to a stately home or castle, the curious mind often wonders about the reasons which led to their creation. And so it is with Castle Howard. Who exactly was Charles Howard? Why was he important enough to have such a big house? Did he win military battles like Marlborough? Is that why he had such a house built? When I first became acquainted with the house, after watching the BBC/PBS television series, The Buccaneers, and of course, Brideshead Revisited, I was understandably impressed and awed by the building, but I didn't learn about the man who commissioned it until many years later.

Born in 1669, Charles Howard came from a distinguished aristocratic family. He was the son of Edward Howard, 2nd Earl of Carlisle, who in turn, was the son of Charles Howard (1629-1685). This first Charles Howard was created 1st Earl of Carlisle 1661 under the Restoration King Charles II. 
Image: official Castle Howard website

The 1st Earl's grandson, Charles (of Castle Howard fame) was a Minister of Parliament for Morpeth, but when his father died in his mid-forties, Charles became the third Earl when he was only twenty-three! He had to take on a lot of responsibilities as a result of this, but there were some perks, too. Charles inherited Henderskelfe Castle, a ruined Mediaeval castle, in 1692. 

A few years after inheriting this castle, he had it demolished to make way for a new building - which would become Castle Howard. As we drove away from the building, we saw a gatehouse with towers that have arrowslits (those cross-shaped openings once used for defense).
 This gatehouse and the mock fortification walls you see in the photos below were constructed in the 1720s. The history of that ruined castle in itself would make for interesting research, especially as it was partially rebuilt in the 1680s.

Charles then began to hold increasingly prestigious positions in government. Under William III, Charles Howard was one of that King's last Gentlemen of the Bedchamber (from 1700-1702), and he then had major positions under both Queen Anne and later King George. So whilst he was busy with politics, Vanbrugh and Hawksmoor (his assistant) were designing his dream house. Vanbrugh was, in the late-17th-century, a playwright and theatre manager (he owned the theatre which is now called Her Majesty's Theatre where The Phantom of the Opera has been playing since its debut in 1986).

Unlike Blenheim Palace, which was originally commissioned in honour of the great military leader, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, for his success at the Battle of Blenheim, etc, Castle Howard was not built for any such reason. It seems likely that Howard simply wanted a house, and he had both the perfect site for one and the money to make it happen. What we see today is an amalgamation of the original concept, Palladian extras, and a lot of Victorian touches which makes Castle Howard truly unique.

For a full article on Castle Howard, please visit my article at:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Climate change: the ice age kind

The Thames and London Bridge in 1677
The Little Ice Age, from about 1317-1800, began with catastrophic floods, crop failure, and domestic animal deaths (which brought on economic depression), harsh winters—and starvation. Epidemics raged unchecked, and millions died in the bubonic plague outbreak in 1348-1350. Because so many laborers (peasants tied to the land, who owed service to their landlords) died, cathedral and castle building ground to a halt for years. 

Our ancestors survived conditions with considerably less resources than we have available. There was no central heating in their homes and shops, of course, and fuel (peat, coal, and wood) was just as expensive, or more so, as the fuels we consume today. Most people just couldn’t afford the luxury of warmth in winter. They didn’t often change clothes or bathe in cold weather when they’d have to haul and heat water. There are paintings from the Netherlands that show women standing in a wide, shallow bowl while washing their legs with a cloth. Lower-economic class families and their guests shared beds near a kitchen hearth, or shut themselves into heavy curtains or a cupboard bed to capture body heat. Portraits of well-to-do families show heavy velvets and furs on men and women. While that certainly shows status, the sheer weight of the clothing indicates that they were needed for warmth.

Family size burgeoned during the global temperature dip of the 16th and 17th centuries: maybe the long, freezing nights were not all that boring! It didn't hurt that the Puritans took the "Be fruitful and multiply" command from Creation very seriously.  

Of course our ancestors knew nothing about it, but they experienced the effects of a plunge in sunspot activity in the 1600s, which corresponded with the coldest years of the Little Ice Age. Specifically during Mary Dyer’s* lifetime, 1611-1660, it was the time of famines, waves of bubonic plague across Europe, the Thirty Years War, the Great Migration to America, the English Civil War, and the explosion of the slave trade to the Americas and Europe. 
Iceland surrounded by sea ice and icebergs, late 17th century

Iceland’s ports were ice-bound by miles, year-round for several years, and trade and passenger shipping from Europe was forced far south to avoid sea ice. On America’s east coast, there were harvest failures, starvation, epidemics of smallpox and yellow fever, and pest plagues. Boston Harbor's sea water froze over for more than a mile out, hard enough to walk on, for two weeks at a time. See "Boston snowpocalypses of 1638". 

The few passenger ships that made an Atlantic winter crossing had to ride at anchor in Massachusetts Bay until the harbors thawed and boats could ferry passengers to the docks. (And you know that those ships didn’t have central heating.)The weather was extreme in the summers, too: the hurricane that made landfall between Plymouth and Boston in 1635 is considered to be the strongest ever to hit New England, based on reports of tidal surge and millions of trees felled by the winds and tornadoes.

It seems that New England was the victim of a polar vortex in 1638 and many other  years.

 Journal of Governor John Winthrop—January 1638:

“About thirty persons of Boston going out in a fair day to Spectacle Island to cut wood, (the town being in great want thereof,) the next night the wind rose so high at N.E. with snow, and after at N.W. for two days, and then it froze so hard, as the bay was all frozen up, save a little channel. In this twelve of them gate to the Governor’s Garden [an island], and seven more were carried in the ice in a small skiff out at Broad Sound, and kept among Brewster’s Rocks, without food or fire, two days, and then the wind forbearing, they gate to Pull-in Point, to a little house there of Mr. Aspenwall’s. Three of them got home the next day over the ice, but their hands and feet frozen. Some lost their fingers and toes, and one died. The rest went from Spectacle Island to the main, but two of them fell into the ice, yet recovered again. In this extremity of weather, a small pinnace was cast away upon Long Island [in Boston Harbor] by Natascott, but the men were saved and came home upon the ice.” 

The Little Ice Age “peaked” in the years of the Great Migration from England to the American colonies, and during the English Civil Wars of the 1640s—the coldest years in many centuries. 

This graph shows the severity of winters in
Europe and North America from 1000-2000 AD.
The absolute coldest period was from 1600-1675.

When Mary Dyer was making a winter trip back to America after several years in England, her ship diverted to Barbados because of severe storms. From a letter written in Barbados on Feb 25, 1657:
“A ship came in hither, which was going to New England, but the storms were so violent that they were forced to come hither, [until] the winter there was nearly over. In this ship were two Friends, Anne Burden of Bristol, and one Mary Dyer from London; both lived in New England formerly, and were members cast out of their [Puritan] churches. Mary goes to her husband who lives upon Rhode Island...”  

London Frost Fair, 1684
Click to enlarge
In the winter of 1683-84, there was another period of extreme cold where the wide and shallow River Thames froze above the London Bridge. At that time, the bridge, which was dismantled in the 19th century, dammed most of the ice to the west, and the river froze solid. (Now, of course, there’s a deep and fast current contained between the embankments.) The novelty of the frozen river drew thousands of people to play and skate, and slide around, and of course, the more reckless broke bones or died of their injuries. Horses drew carts, tents were erected for food vendors, and whatever one bought for three pence on the shore cost four pence on the ice. With long, frozen winters with little heat and light, it must have been a very gloomy existence. So when the Frost Fairs set up on the frozen Thames, there was, in a relatively small area, entertainment, recreation, shopping, people-watching, and foods and beverages they wouldn’t consume on a daily basis (think of today’s deep-fried junk foods at fairs).  

 A NASA website says, 

“During the coldest part of the Little Ice Age, from 1645 to 1715, there is believed to have been a decrease in the total energy output from the Sun, as indicated by little or no sunspot activity. Known as the Maunder Minimum, astronomers of the time observed only about 50 sunspots for a 30-year period as opposed to a more typical 40-50,000 spots. The Sun normally shows signs of variability, such as its eleven-year sunspot cycle. Within that time, it goes from a minimum to a maximum period of activity represented by a peak in sunspots and flare activity.”

More from NASA: 

“Between the mid-1600s and the early 1700s the Earth’s surface temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere appear to have been at or near their lowest values of the last millennium. European winter temperatures over that time period were reduced by 1.8 to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1-1.5 Celsius). This cool down is evident through derived temperature readings from tree rings and ice cores, and in historical temperature records, as gathered by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and the University of Virginia.”

Could a Little Ice Age happen again? Scientists say that after the current sun cycle, we’re heading for a “grand minimum” in approximately 2020, that would last until about 2070 (don’t worry—be happy—we’ll be dead by then!). A May 2013 article says the slight cooling effect of the sun’s decreased radiation would only slow, but not stop, global warming. Yes, an ice age could happen again. But not one that we’ll ever see.

  Christy K Robinson is author of two biographical novels on William and *Mary Dyer, and a collection of her nonfiction research on the Dyers. In 1660, Mary Dyer was hanged for her civil disobedience over religious freedom, and her husband’s and friends’ efforts in that human right became a model for the United States Constitution’s Bill of Rights 130 years later. The books (and Kindle versions) are available on Amazon. CLICK HERE for the links.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

A Seventeenth Century Atrocity - Muslim Spain

by Deborah Swift
Seventeenth Century Seville
Seventeenth Century Persecution in Spain
The Spanish Inquisition is associated with the persecution of the Jews but it is not common knowledge that Muslims were also tried and tortured by this institution. During my research trip to Seville I visited the remains of the San Jorge Castle, the place of imprisonment for victims of the regime. There I saw chilling evidence of this persecution, which the Inquisition applied not only to rival faiths to Catholicism but also to mystics of their own faith.

Whereas in seventeenth century England Catholicism was repressed, in Spain Catholics were the ruling majority. To understand the climate of oppression for religious minorities in Spain in 1609, one must look back a few centuries to 1248, when Seville, formerly a Moorish city, fell to Christian armies.

Symbols of Lost Culture
During the following centuries after moorish Spain was conquered, Christians were determined to expand their dominion over Spain, and in 1492 Muslim Granada fell - a momentous day for Christian Europe, a day of rejoicing, but for Muslims it became a day of eternal sorrow. Just as the day is marked by celebrations in Spain, in Morocco black flags are hung out to indicate loss and mourning. Some descendants of those expelled still retain the original 15th century keys of their Andalusian homes as a symbol of their lost culture.

After the conquest of Granada by Christians, the Jewish population was driven out, whilst tolerance was promised to its Moorish citizens. So by the seventeenth century the Moors had become indelibly Spanish. Some were genuine Christian converts, and many, like Sancho Panza’s neighbour Ricote (in Cervantes’ novel Don Quixote), and Luisa in my novel 'A Divided Inheritance', thought of themselves as ‘más cristiano que moro’ (More Christian than Moor).

The Burning of Books
A short period of relatively peaceful co-existence between the Muslims and Christians was shattered when the Archbishop of Granada, Hernando de Talavera, was replaced by the fanatic Cardinal Cisneros, and Muslim religious leaders were persuaded to hand over more than 5,000 priceless books with ornamental bindings, which were then consigned to bonfires. Only a few books on medicine were spared the flames. Unsurprisingly, this event led to an armed response from Muslims in the First Rebellion of the Alpujarras in 1499. By 1502 the monarchy had rescinded the treaty of tolerance and Muslims in Andalusia were forced to convert or leave. Those who converted were called Moriscos, which means “little Moors”.

Many Moriscos professed their allegiance to Christianity while practicing Islam in secret. Every aspect of the Islamic way of life, including the Arabic language, dress and social customs – was condemned as uncivilised and pagan. A person who refused to drink wine or eat pork, or who cooked meat on a Friday might be denounced as a Muslim to the Inquisition. Even practices such as buying couscous, using henna, throwing sweets at a wedding or dancing to the sound of Berber music were un-Christian activities for which a person might be reported to the Inquisition by his neighbour, and obliged to do penance. 

Further repression of the Moriscos resulted in a second Rebellion. Fearing the rebels were conspiring with the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, the uprising was brutally suppressed by Don John of Austria. In a spate of atrocities the town of Galera, to the east of Granada, was razed to the ground and sprinkled with salt, after the slaughter of 2,500 people including 400 women and children. Some 80,000 Moriscos in Granada were forcibly dispersed to other parts of Spain, including Seville. Christians from northern Spain were settled on their empty lands. Ayamena and Nicoloao in my story were displaced from Granada before settling in Seville.

As early as the 16th century The Council of State proposed expulsion as a solution to the on-going Morisco 'problem', for which the previous expulsion of the Jews provided a legal precedent. However, the action was delayed because of Spain’s pressing political concerns abroad and because of the drawbacks of losing so many skilled Muslim labourers from the Spanish working population. Muslim labourers and artisans were responsible for much of the beautiful spanish architecture we admire so much today.

Final Expulsion of 400,000 people
Juan de Ribera, the ageing Archbishop of Valencia, who had initially been a firm believer in missionary work, and the conversion of the Moorish population to Christianity, became in his declining years the chief partisan of expulsion. In a sermon preached on September 27th, 1609, he said that Spanish land would never become fertile again until these heretics (the Moriscos) were expelled. The Duke of Lerma, the corrupt chief minister agreed with him. The new king, Felipe III, known as Phillip the Pious for his supposed religious zeal, finally acquiesced to political pressure and in the expulsions began. The embarkation order was read out in Seville on January 10th 1610. The entire Muslim population, along with anyone who had converted from Islam to Christianity, was ordered to leave Spain on threat of death. By 1613 it is estimated 400,000 people had been forcibly removed in this mass expulsion from Spanish territory.

This little-known part of seventeenth century forms one of the threads of the narrative in my novel, 'A Divided Inheritance'.

Read more in this excellent article by Roger Boase in History Today