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Conquest of Granada

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Conquest of Granada

How did a son who was hungry for power help topple his own Kingdom? How did that end over 700 years of Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula?

What was the Conquest of Granada?

In 1482–92 king Ferdinand directed a campaign against the Muslim kingdom of Granada, aiming to reconquer it as Christian territory. He was successful. A long siege in January 1492 forced the sultan Muhammad XII to surrender the city and the Kingdom of Granada became subsumed by the Kingdom of Castile. The remaining Mudéjars were offered a choice between exile or baptism in 1502, forcing many to leave the country.

Mudéjar

A term used to refer to the Muslims who remained in the Iberian Peninsula after the Christian Reconquista but who weren't initially forced to convert to Christianity.

The Conquest of Granada unified Spain under Catholic rule and was a huge success for monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand. It also made Christopher Columbus’ voyages possible as Spanish rulers could devote more time to overseas exploration now that internal disputes and territories had been settled.

Conquest of Granada Location of Granada StudySmarterLocation of Granada in Spain, created with mapchart.net - StudySmarter.

Background

In the eighth century, the Iberian Peninsula had been mainly conquered by the Muslim Umayyad caliphate. The Christians had been forced to the north of Spain, whilst the rest became Al-Ándalus and was ruled by the Moors.

Moors

The Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Iberian peninsular, Sicily, and Malta.

Reconquista

Christians attempted to reconquer ‘their’ lands from the Moors from the eighth century. This was known as the Reconquista. By the thirteenth century, most of the major Moor strongholds had fallen to the Christians and in the late fifteenth century, only one territory remained for them to reconquer: the Emirate of Granada, ruled by the Nasrid Dynasty.

Reconquista

A Spanish word meaning reconquering. Used specifically to describe centuries of battles by Christian states to expel Muslim invaders from Spain.

Nasrid Dynasty

A long-ruling Muslim dynasty in Spain.

Conquest of Granada Nasrid Palace StudySmarterDetail of a Nasrid palace in Granada, Wikimedia Commons.

Summary of the Conquest of Granada

The conquest of Granada spanned just over ten years, from the Emir’s invasion of Zahara de la Sierra (on the Western border of the Emirate of Granada) in 1481 up until a siege forced the Emirate to capitulate in 1492. Throughout the campaigns, Catholic Monarchs were helped by civil war and family feuds in Granada whilst the Moors suffered from internal difficulties and a lack of support.

Emirate

The land, ranks, or reign of an emir (a title used by monarchs or high office holders in the Muslim world.)

Granada at the time of the Conquest

From 1464, the emir Abu ‘l-Hasan Ali ruled Granada as the twenty-first Nasrid ruler. He was staunchly against the tributes that Granada was expected to pay to the Crown of Castile, which he refused to pay in 1477. This initiated conflict between the two kingdoms but did not yet lead to war.

Tribute

An excessive tax that one nation or region must pay the monarchy (often in return for protection.)

Abu ‘l-Hasan Ali then caused more tension between the Emirate of Granada and the Kingdom of Castile by launching a surprise invasion of the city of Zahara de la Sierra (on the Western border of Granada) in 1481. During this invasion, forces killed and enslaved unarmed Christian Zaharans, sparking a backlash from Isabella I of Castile. She took this opportunity to start a war against the Emirate in 1482, known as the Granada War. The Christians of Andalusia retaliated by seizing Alhambra in 1482. Over the next ten years, the Christians dedicated their resources to the struggle. There was no continuous fighting but seasonal campaigns, which were launched in Spring and broken off in Winter.

Civil War in Granada

A Civil War in Granada coincided with the wars against Castile, weakening their position and allowing the Catholic Monarchs leverage. Abu ‘l-Hasan’s son Muhammad (known as Boabdil to Christians) rebelled against his father after his father’s marriage to Isabel de Solís, a Castilian Christian slave who had converted to Islam. Abu ‘l-Hasan had two sons with Isabel, which triggered fears around succession for Muhammad and the people of Granada. Muhammad successfully ousted Abu l’-Hasan Ali in 1482 and briefly ruled before he was captured by Christians in 1483 after a failed invasion of Castile.

Conquest of Granada Boabdil StudySmarterMuhammad XII known as Boabdil to Christians, Wikimedia Commons.

Boabdil was released and allowed to recover his throne on the condition that he would hold Granada as a vassal state to the monarchs. He also agreed to not intervene in the Christians’ siege of Malaga in 1487.

Vassal state

A state that is dominated by another state (here, Granada would be dominated by Castile.)

Within the next two years, the Christians took:

  • Baza

  • Almunecar

  • Salobrena

  • Almeria

By 1491, Granada was the only Muslim-governed city left. Christian armies expected Muhammad to surrender the whole kingdom to them, but he refused. The Christians began a long and costly siege of the city in April 1491. This siege ended when Granada, devastated by the siege, surrendered in January 1492.

In legal terms, Granada was not actually ‘conquered’ but agreed on capitulations. The Catholic Monarchs received the keys to the city, but Granada kept their own officials, who were supervised by Castilian governors. The Mudéjars were initially allowed to keep their customs, property, laws, and religion until 1502 when they were forced to either convert to Christianity or exile.

Funding

The War mainly obtained funding through a mixture of papal bulls, grants, and taxes. Below are the different sources of funding for the conquest of Granada:

  • Cruzadas

Pope Sixtus IV issued a bull of crusade (cruzada) and granted special spiritual favours to those who contributed or took part in the campaign. Another was granted in 1491.

Cruzada

(here) A decree issued by the pope (papal bull), which granted indulgences to anyone that fought for the Christians in the War of Granada. Indulgences reduced the amount of punishment one had to undergo for their sins.

  • Concessions

In 1485 Pope Innocent VIII made an added concession of one-tenth of the revenues of the Church in Spain, which was later renewed.

  • Papal Grants

Between 1484–92 Castile raised 800 million maravedís (coins of the currency used in Castile) through papal grants.

  • Taxation on minorities

Racial minorities in Castile were forced to contribute to costs. For example, between 1482–91, Jewish citizens paid some 58 million maravedis in special taxes.

  • Sale of slaves

The sale of slaves from Malaga raised over 56 million maravedis for the crown.

  • Loans

Between 1489–91 the Catholic Monarchs borrowed around 315 million maravedís to fund the war efforts. These loans were converted into annuities (juros) at an interest rate of 10 percent, creating a large national debt.

Annuity

A fixed sum of money paid to someone each year.

What is the significance of the Conquest of Granada?

The conquest of Granada was particularly significant as it marked a new period of Christian warfare. This period was far more destructive and aggressive than that of the medieval Reconquista and marked the beginning of the brutal suppression of non-Catholic religion on the peninsula. In 1487, the entire population of Malaga (15,000 people) was enslaved after its capture, and the siege of Granada devastated the town.

The conquest also took on the status of a European crusade and was blessed by the papacy with volunteers from across the continent. The pope granted funds to war efforts under this premise and gave Ferdinand a huge silver cross to carry into battle. The religious element was deliberately cultivated to earn support for the war. Many fighters wore crusader crosses on their uniforms to emphasise this.

The Crusades

A possible exam question might be:

‘To what extent were Ferdinand and Isabella’s policies against the Muslims a religious crusade?’

To effectively answer this, you will need to have an understanding of what the crusades were and to contextualise Ferdinand and Isabella's policies towards Muslims. You may also want to explore other motivations they may have had.

The Crusades were a series of religious wars in the years 1096 to 1291 between Muslims and Christians to secure control of different holy sites. Isabella and Ferdinand promoted the conquest of Granada as a religious crusade. But were there other reasons for conquering Granada? Below are some of the possible for and against arguments you could use to answer this question:

ForAgainst
  • Ferdinand and Isabella were devoutly religious and proclaimed their desire to serve God and spread Catholicism in 1485.
  • The papacy's cruzada tax grant supports the crusade claim.
  • Continuous attacks on Muslims, forced conversions, and expulsions after the conquest demonstrated Isabella and Ferdinand's preoccupation with eradicating any non-Catholic elements.
  • The Spanish Inquisition began investigating Moriscos in 1502 after Isabella sanctioned its use.
  • Ferdinand and Isabella saw Muslims as a threat due to their suspected links with the Ottomans, so the conquest and their expulsion were a security move.
  • Granada was wealthy and had links to the Saharan gold trade, hence capturing it was lucrative to the Catholic Monarchs.
  • The Conquest was less about religion and more about creating political unity across Spain, which strengthened the Catholic Monarchs' power.
  • Labelling it a crusade meant that Isabella and Ferdinand could generate support (financial and physical in the form of fighters) from Catholic supporters and from the papacy.
  • You could also answer this question by differentiating between Isabella and Ferdinand. Isabella was seen as more religiously motivated than Ferdinand, who saw political opportunities in the Conquest of Granada. When she died, Ferdinand ceased persecuting Muslims in their own kingdoms.

Effects of the Conquest of Granada

The conquest of Granada had profound consequences for the inhabitants, the Muslim population, the Catholic Monarchs, and the Iberian Peninsula as a whole. During the conquest, around 100,000 Moors had died or been enslaved, 200,000 emigrated and 200,000 remained. The emigration caused an economic crisis, helped by the collapse of traditional trade to north Africa.

Forced conversion of the Moors

Although the Mudéjars were initially allowed to keep their traditions, a rigorous policy of conversion began against them in 1499. Revolts ensued. In December 1499, a brief revolt erupted in Albaicin, a Mudéjar quarter of Granada, but was appeased quickly. In Alpujarra, a mountainous region in Andalusia revolts broke out from 1499 to 1501, when they were repressed by Castilian forces. Continued discontent in this region led to future conflicts in the latter part of the sixteenth century for King Charles I of Spain.

After initial revolts were suppressed, Granada was seen to be ‘converted.’ This led the Catholic Monarchs to decide to convert other territories in Spain, such as Castile, too, with the eventual aim of creating a fully Christian united Spain.

Many Muslims converted, thinking that accepting baptism would leave them in peace but this was unfortunately not the case, and they were subject to continuous attacks on their cultural identity. The Spanish Inquisition, established in 1478, moved to Granada in 1526 and tortured or imprisoned many Muslims suspected of heresy.

The Spanish Inquisition

A judicial institution (system of courts), which was established by the Catholic Monarchs to try and root out heretics (non-Catholics.)

National army

The Granada War led to the emergence of a national army, one of the first steps in Spain becoming a military superpower. Formerly, royal forces were made up, as in medieval times, of soldiers recruited by vassals. However, this new army was more cohesive and stronger.

Ferdinand got his army from four main sources:

  • The troops of the great magnates.

  • The gentry and their dependents.

  • The militia of the hermandad towns.

  • Soldiers raised by the Crown.

Military historians such as Weston F. Cook¹ and Clifford J. Rogers², cite the Conquest of Granada as the first military campaign in Spain that reflected the modernisation of European military tactics in the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries. The use of gunpowder in particular (which was afforded due to papal grants) gave the Spanish more power and ultimately established them as a new military power in Europe, the effects of which are evident in the next few centuries of Spanish expansionism.

A united Spain

Although the Reconquista had returned the states to Christian rule, it did not mean Spain was unified. By the end of Ferdinand’s reign, the five major powers had become three: Castile conquered Granada and Aragon acquired Navarre. In 1516 Castile, Aragon, and Portugal remained as independent kingdoms but were clearly separate in their language, customs, and structures.

Ferdinand and Isabella

Isabella took only a nominal part in the campaign, but Ferdinand was revered for his role in the war and both of their prestige was enhanced. As it had taken on the status of a crusade, they were seen as the protectors of Catholicism and celebrated for this by many Christians. Muslims, Jews, and other non-Catholics, on the other hand, experienced their rule as an oppressive and intolerant one. They were credited with unifying Spain, helping establish the monarchy as a strong and respected but also cruel and intolerant entity.

Conquest of Granada Ferdinand and Isabella StudySmarterFerdinand and Isabella with some of their subjects, Wikimedia Commons.

Overseas exploration

The conquest of Granada also freed up the Catholic Monarchs to invest resources and energy into overseas exploration. When Christopher Columbus, an inexperienced but determined seafarer, came to Spain to ask for support, the crown agreed (after rejection in 1486) to sponsor his expedition in 1492, no longer having to concentrate their funds and energy on Granada. This decision would result in the expansion of the Spanish Empire into the Americas throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Conquest of Granada - Key takeaways

  • In the eighth century, the Muslim Umayyad caliphate conquered most of the Iberian Peninsula.
  • Christians had reconquered most of Spain by the late fifteenth century, leaving the Emirate of Granada as the only Moor territory left.
  • After Abu ‘l-Hasan Ali launched a surprise invasion of the city of Zahara de la Sierra in 1481, Isabella of Castile took the opportunity to commence a war against the Emirate, called the Granada War, in 1482.
  • Ferdinand and Isabella were helped by a civil war in Granada, which weakened their defences.
  • Ferdinand and Isabella received funding for the conquest of Granada through papal bulls, grants, and taxes.
  • The conquest of Granada in 1492 meant that the Iberian Peninsula was ‘unified’ under Christian rule, though it still consisted of distinct kingdoms.
  • Muslims in Granada and across the peninsula were forced to convert to Christianity or face exile. Many did but were later accused of still practicing their faith under the Spanish Inquisition and faced jail, torture, death, or exile.
  • The conquest of Granada was highly beneficial for Isabella and Ferdinand. It cemented their image as strong Catholic Monarchs, created a stronger army, and opened up opportunities for Spanish overseas exploration.

References

1. Weston F. Cook, ‘The Cannon Conquest of Nasrid Spain and the End of the Reconquista’, Journal of Military History, 1993.

2. Clifford J. Rogers, ‘The Military Revolutions of the Hundred Years' War’, Journal of Military History, 1993.

Frequently Asked Questions about Conquest of Granada

In 1482–92 King Ferdinand directed a campaign against the Muslim kingdom of Granada, aiming to reconquer it as Christian territory. He was successful. A long siege in January 1492 forced the sultan Muhammad XII to surrender the city and the Kingdom of Granada became subsumed by the Kingdom of Castile. The remaining Mudéjars were offered a choice between exile or baptism in 1502, forcing many to leave the country.

The conquest of Granada was particularly significant as it marked the end of the Reconquista and the start of a ‘unified’ Catholic Spain. It also marked a new period of Christian warfare. This period was far more destructive and aggressive than that of the medieval Reconquista and marked the beginning of the brutal suppression of non-Catholic religion on the peninsula. The conquest also took on the status of a European crusade and was blessed by the papacy with volunteers from across the continent. The pope granted funds to war efforts under this premise and gave Ferdinand a huge silver cross to carry into battle.

King Ferdinand II lead the conquest of Granada and is credited with unifying Spain under Christian rule alongside his wife, Queen Isabella I.

The history of Granada is rich and complex. It was the home of Spain’s last Islamic dynasty and its conquest marked a decisive point in the Catholic Monarch’s power.

Granada is famous for being the home of Spain’s last Islamic dynasty. Many of its remnants are still evident today. The reconquest in 1492 was pivotal, as it marked a transition to united Catholic rule on the Iberian Peninsula and consolidated Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II’s rule.

Final Conquest of Granada Quiz

Question

Which Kingdom did Granada become subsumed by after the conquest?

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Answer

Castile

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Question

Which three of these areas were administrative units in Al-Andalus?


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Answer

Portugal and Galicia

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Question

Which dynasty ruled the Emirate of Granda?


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Answer

The Nasrid Dynasty

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Question

What did emir Abu ‘l-Hasan Ali refuse to pay in 1477?

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Answer

The tributes that Granada was expected to pay to the Crown of Castile.

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Question

What event spurred Queen Isabella I to commence a war against the Emirate in 1482?


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Answer

Abu ‘l-Hasan Ali launched a surprise invasion of the city of Zahara de la Sierra (on the Western border of Granada) in 1481. During this invasion, forces killed and enslaved unarmed Christian Zaharans.

Show question

Question

Which of these territories did the Christians take between 1487 and 1489 (choose three)?


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Answer

Baza

Show question

Question

What happened to Granada after the Reconquista?


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Answer

In legal terms, Granada was not actually ‘conquered’ but agreed on capitulations. The Catholic Monarchs received the keys to the city, but Granada kept their own officials, who were supervised by Castilian governors. The Mudéjars were initially allowed to keep their customs, property, laws, and religion until 1502 when they were forced to either convert to Christianity or be expelled.

Show question

Question

Where did the Catholic Monarchs obtain funding from?

Show answer

Answer

Cruzadas

Show question

Question

Why was Granada significant in terms of warfare?


Show answer

Answer

The conquest of Granada was particularly significant as it marked a new period of Christian warfare. This period was far more destructive and aggressive than that of the medieval Reconquista and marked the beginning of the brutal suppression of non-Catholic religion on the peninsula.

Show question

Question

Roughly how many Moors emigrated during the conquest and why did that have an economic impact?


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Answer

Around 200,000 emigrated, meaning the Iberian Peninsula lost a large number of its workforce.

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Question

What moved to Granada in 1526, and what were its effects?


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Answer

The Spanish Inquisition, established in 1478, moved to Granada in 1526 and tortured or imprisoned many Muslims suspected of heresy.

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Question

From which sources did Ferdinand supply his army?


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Answer

Soldiers raised by the crown

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Question

How did the Conquest of Granada consolidate Isabella and Ferdinand’s image as strong Catholic monarchs?


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Answer

It took on the status of a crusade, hence they were seen as the protectors of Catholicism and celebrated for this by many Christians. They were also credited with unifying Spain under Catholic rule.

Show question

Question

What effect did the Conquest of Granada have on overseas exploration?


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Answer

The conquest of Granada freed up the Catholic Monarchs to invest resources and energy into overseas exploration. When Christopher Columbus, an inexperienced but determined seafarer, came to Spain to ask for support, the crown agreed (after rejection in 1486) to sponsor his expedition in 1492, no longer having to concentrate their funds and energy on Granada. This decision would result in the expansion of the Spanish Empire into the Americas throughout the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

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