Cover Page



Half Title page

Title page

Copyright page





Tree showing some of those mentioned in these pages

Map of Spain in the thirteenth century

Chapter 1: 1157–79

Past and Present

After the Emperor

Two Royal Minorities

Chapter 2: The Age of Las Navas

Life, Law and Memory

Three Battles

Implications of the Vernacular

Castile Victorious

Chapter 3: 1214–48

Doña Berenguela and Son

‘The Gate is Open and the Way is Clear’

Towards Valencia

Conquest and Colonization

Toledo and Seville

After Valencia

The Mediterranean Dimension

Chapter 4: Some Permanent Features



Hunger, Kings and Capitals

Chapter 5: 1252–9

Alfonso X: Promising Beginnings

A Command Economy

The Law

Chapter 6: 1259–74

Toledo and Translations

International Complications

The Mudéjar Rising

The Alfonsine Histories

Chapter 7: 1275–84

A Reign in Ruins

France and Aragón


Aragón Alone

The Learned King

Chapter 8: The Changed Balance

Castile after 1284

A Question of Alliances

‘Neither Truth nor Faith’





Spain, 1157–1300



Iberia in Prehistory*

María Cruz Fernández Castro

The Romans in Spain†

John S. Richardson

Visigothic Spain 409–711

Roger Collins

The Arab Conquest of Spain, 710–797

Roger Collins

The Contest of Christian and Muslim Spain, 1031–1157

Bernard F. Reilly

Spain, 1157–1300: A Partible Inheritance

Peter Linehan

Spain’s Centuries of Crisis: 1300–1474

Teofilo F. Ruiz

The Spain of the Catholic Monarchs 1474–1520

John Edwards

Spain 1516–1598: From Nation State to World Empire*

John Lynch

The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change, 1598–1700*

John Lynch

Bourbon Spain, 1700–1808*

John Lynch

Spain in the Liberal Age: From Constitution to Civil War, 1808–1939

Charles J. Esdaile

Spain: From Dictatorship to Democracy. 1939 to the Present

Javier Tusell


Caliphs and Kings 798–1033

Roger Collins

* Out of print

Print on demand

Title Page


To all my Spanish friends,
but to some more than others

A strange period this, in which the most brutal of realities went together with the most mannered and delicate literary culture! (L. P. Harvey, Islamic Spain, 170)


Spain between 1157 and 1300 was a large land of mostly small places. The domus municipalis of Bragança, a place within our area until shortly before the beginning of our period, and an example of the sort of democratic gathering place distributed along the frontier where the clergy of Sepúlveda came together to harry their bishop up hill and down dale,1 measures just seventeen paces across from corner to corner.

As the enigmatic land of three religions whose Christian kings were neither anointed nor crowned, Spain tended to be thought of by northerners in vertical terms. But how the Greek geographer Strabo had done so was as ‘an ox-hide extending in length from west to east, its fore-parts towards the east, and in breadth from north to south’.2 And that was the basis of the description of the boundary of a property sold by Domingos Martins in 1220 as lying along ‘the road that goes from Coimbra to Málaga’,3 that is, along an Atlantic to Mediterranean axis. To that extent, the peninsula continued to think of itself horizontally, in accordance with a Visigothic orientation.

But only to that extent. For reasons to be explained I have refrained from treating the histories of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragón either as uncoupled parts of a Visigothic whole suspended in 711 or as anticipating the union of the two thrones in 1469. That strategy, by contrast with the procedure of Castile’s own thirteenth-century historians for whom all lordships other than Castile-León’s were illicit and therefore to be relegated to appendices,4 has determined the arrangement of the chapters of this volume. The same goes for Navarre and al-Andalus, whose incorporation into the story presents particular problems, as do the inter-relationships of its intersecting ethnic-religious and political planes.

One problem about the Crown of Aragón, as the battle of Muret demonstrated, is that the natural affinities of part of it were not with Spain at all but, despite the failure of all previous attempts to establish a regime straddling the Pyrenees, with Languedoc. Connoisseurs of the counter-factual may wish to reflect that it was only on account of a couple of chance deaths that Catalonia remained associated with Spain at all.5

On the face of it there is no better reason for running the histories of thirteenth-century Aragón and Castile together than for treating thirteenth-century Aragón and France likewise. An all-Iberia treatment in this period begs various questions, the artificiality of which will be referred to at various points in what follows.6

A different type of problem is the partiality of the chroniclers, which I hope I have had an eye for.

These days it is probably necessary to explain that the author of this book is a Christian. If a Muslim or a Jew had written it, it might have been a different book. But so might it have been if another Christian had done so. And all three of those hypothetical volumes would have been about the same place as this one.

I had not intended to crawl all over the political and diplomatic particulars of the Spanish kingdoms between 1150 and 1300 or to revisit facts of the matter already rehearsed in my contributions to three volumes of the New Cambridge Medieval History. But somehow narrative kept breaking in, with the consequence that the story sometimes gets chronologically ahead of itself.

The development (I had almost written the progress) of historical studies in Spain during the forty years since the death of Franco is probably already a subject for historical study. Scanning the shelves – and the tables and the floors – of Cambridge’s incomparable University Library in search of grain amongst the chaff, I observe the inexorable development (or progress) spreading fungus-like week by week. Blackwell’s ration of words might have been exhausted on the bibliography alone. In an exercise such as this theurge for completeness – for the latest monograph, the latest opened archive, the latest article – would be fatal. The cautionary tale of Lord Acton should remind us that history can only be done by cutting corners. So all sorts of interesting aspects of the period, all sorts of subjects – Berceo, Ramon de Penyafort, space (espacio, espace), Ramon Lull, pilgrimage, street-smells, castles and cathedrals, Military Orders, Vidal de Canellas, ‘Society’ itself7-will be found either to have been neglected or to be missing altogether. For what is not missing – and some will think the coverage of Alfonso X disproportionate; plainly I do not – I wish to thank friends and colleagues in Spain and elsewhere for keeping me in the picture by sending me copies of their works. For that and numerous other kindnesses I am indebted to Paco Bautista, Maria João Branco, Inés Fernández-Ordóñez, Raphael Loewe, Avi Shivtiel and Juan Miguel Valero. The late John Crook, Francisco Hernández, Magnus Ryan and Teo Ruiz all read drafts of part or all of the thing. None of what is wrong with it is down to them. As well as John Lynch, successive History editors at Blackwell, for whose departure from the firm I may be partly responsible, have been heroically patient with my dilatoriness.

The society organized for war, as it has so often been described, was also a society disorganized by war. Whether it was also a society in crisis I do not say, though since societies everywhere have always been in crisis I have avoided using the word in the pages that follow.

Biblical quotations are from the King James Version. Unless otherwise indicated, all other translations are my own.


1 April 2007

1 Below, 23.

2 The Geography of Strabo, 3.1.3, Loeb transl., II. 5.

3 ’… de strata que vadit de Colimbria ad Malaga’: Lisbon, Instituto dos Arquivos Nacionais Torre do Tombo, S. Cruz de Coimbra (Antiga C. E.), docs. partic. mc. 16, no. 13.

4 Below, 5, 163.

5 Below, 84.

6 Examples of twelfth-century battles being refought into the twentieth include the Aragonese Ubieto Arteta’s accusation of ‘pancatalanismo’ against M. Coll i Alentorn for laying claim to Huesca and other places which had always belonged to Aragón (Hist. de Aragón, 184 n. 14) and the Catalan Soldevila’s lament in 1962 at the ‘still disastrous consequences’ of Alfonso II’s cession of Murcia to Castile in 1179 (Hist. de Catalunya, 314; below, 35).

7 Over the previous thirty years historiographical fashions had changed, Beryl Smalley remarked in 1983. At the earlier date it had not been ‘thought desirable to add “and Society” to one’s title’: Study of the Bible, vii.


1151 treaty of Tudején
1153 Poblet established and affiliated to Cistercian Order
1157 Death of ‘the Emperor’ (Alfonso VII); accession of Sancho III of Castile, Fernando II of León
1158 May: treaty of Sahagún; August: death of Sancho III; succession of two-year-old Alfonso VIII
1162 August: Ramon Berenguer IV buried at Ripoll; primitive version of Gesta comitum Barcinonensium compiled there; accession of Alfonso II
1164 Order of Calatrava instituted
1166 March: Synod of Segovia
1169 November: majority of Alfonso VIII of Castile
1170 Alfonso VIII marries Eleanor of England; Order of Santiago instituted
1172 June–July: siege of Huete
1174 majority of Alfonso II of Aragón
1177 September: capture of Cuenca
1179 March: treaty of Cazola; May: papacy recognizes kingdom of Portugal
1187 loss of Jerusalem
1188 Cortes of León; Corts of Girona
1192 compilation of Liber feudorum maior completed
1195 July: battle of Alarcos
1196 April: death of Alfonso II of Aragón; succession of Pedro II; papacy recognizes kingdom of Navarre
1204 November: Pedro II crowned and knighted at Rome by Innocent III
1207 May: Cantar de Mio Cid written down
1209–47 Archbishop Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada of Toledo
1210 study of Aristotle’s works on natural philosophy banned at Paris
1212 July: battle of Las Navas de Tolosa
1213 September: battle of Muret; death of Pedro II of Aragón; succession of Jaime I
1214 September: death of Alfonso VIII
1215 Fourth Lateran Council
1216–17 papal confirmation of Order of Preachers
1217 June: death of Enrique I of Castile; succession of Fernando III
1224 Castilian Great Leap Forward commences
1229 December: reconquest of Mallorca
1230 combination of León and Castile
1231 reunion of Aragón and Navarre considered
1234 Ramon de Penyafort compiles Gregorian decretals;
Fernando III’s imperial ambitions revealed; death of Sanç VII of Navarre; succession of Count Thibaut IV of Champagne as Teobaldo I
1236 June: reconquest of Córdoba
1238 September: reconquest of Valencia
1247 rebellion of al-Azraq
1248 August: establishment of Aigues-Mortes; November: reconquest of Seville
1250 translation of Lapidario
1252 May: Alfonso X succeeds Fernando III
1254 Alfonsine law-code, Fuero real
1255 Alfonsine law-code, Espéculo
1256–8 translation of Picatrix
1256–65 first version of Siete Partidas
1257 Alfonso X elected German emperor
1258 May: treaty of Corbeil
1259 February: translation of Libro de las Cruces
1260 summer: African crusade (capture and loss of Salé)
1262 mid-June: marriage of Infant Pedro of Aragón and Constanza of Hohenstaufen
1262–72 Alfonsine Astronomical Tables constructed
1263 July: Jewish-Christian debate at Barcelona
1264–6 Mudéjar revolt in Murcia and Andalusia
?1265–74 Alfonsine Cántigas de Santa María
1270 work on Alfonsine histories begins
1272–3 rebellion of Castilian nobility
1274 work on Alfonsine national history interrupted
1275 May: Gregory X rejects imperial claim of Alfonso X; death of Fernando de la Cerda
1276 July: abdication and death of Jaime I; succession of Pedro II
1276–9 intensive period of Alfonsine translations
1277 Alfonso X does to death Infante Fadrique and Simón Ruíz de los Cameros
1278 Infante Sancho co-rules with Alfonso X
1282 March: Sicilian Vespers;
April: ‘Cortes’ of Valladolid’; rising of Infante Sancho; work on Alfonsine national history resumed
1283 October: General Privilege of Union of Aragón conceded
1284 April: death of Alfonso X; succession of Sancho IV
1285 spring: French crusade invades Corona de Aragón; November: death of Pedro III of Aragón; accession of Alfonso III
1287 January: conquest of Menorca;
August: Privileges of the Union
1291 May: death of Alfonso III; Jaume II succeeds to thrones of Aragón and Sicily
1295 April: death of Sancho IV; accession of bastard child
Fernando IV
1295 summer: Cortes of Valladolid; Castilian coup d’état
1301 legitimization of Fernando IV
1302 treaty of Caltabellotta


AC Archivo de la catedral
ACA Archivo de la Corona de Aragón, Barcelona
AEM Anuario de Estudios Medievales
AHDE Anuario de Historia de Derecho Español
AHN Archivo Histórico Nacional, Madrid
BAE Biblioteca de Autores Españoles
BC Biblioteca del Cabildo
BEC Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartes
BFW Böhmer
BHS Bulletin of Hispanic Studies
Book of Deeds Jaume I of Aragón, Llibre dels Fets
BRABL Boletín de la Real Academia de Buenas Letras de Barcelona
BRAH Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia
CAI Chronica Adefonsi Imperatoris
CAX Crónica de Alfonso X
CAXI Crónica de Alfonso XI
CCCM Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis (Turnhout)
CFIV Crónica de Fernando IV
CHE Cuadernos de Historia de España
CIC Corpus iuris canonici: see Friedberg
CLC Cortes de los antiguos reinos de León y de Castilla
CLHM Cahiers de linguistique hispanique médiévale
CLCHM Cahiers de linguistique et de civilisation hispaniques médiévales
CM Lucas of Tuy, Chronicon mundi
CSIV Crónica de Sancho IV
CSM Cantigas de Santa María
Docs.JI Documentos de Jaime I de Aragón
DrH Rodrigo of Toledo, Historia de rebus Hispanie
EE Alfonso X, Estoria de España
EEM En la España medieval
EEMCA Estudios de la Edad Media de la Corona de Aragón
ES España Sagrada
F. Fuero
GE Alfonso X, General estoria
HS Hispania Sacra
JEH Journal of Ecclesiastical History
Ldf Llibre dels fets (orig. of Book of Deeds, ed. Smith & Buffery)
Lucas of Tuy Chronicon Mundi
MGH, SS Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores
MHE Memorial Histórico Español
MiöG Mitteilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung
NCMH The New Cambridge Medieval History
Part. Alfonso X, Siete Partidas
PCG Primera Crónica General
RABM Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos
RdLA Rodríguez de Lama, Alejandro IV
RdLU Rodríguez de Lama, Urbano IV
REDC Revista Español de Derecho Canónico
RFE Revista de Filología Española
RIS Rerum Italicarum Scriptores
SDSCl Domínguez Sánchez, Clemente IV
X Liber Extra
Zurita Anales de la Corona de Aragón (cit. by book and chapter)

Tree showing some of those mentioned in these pages

Map 1 Spain in the thirteenth century.

Source: based on J. Edwards, The Monarchies of Ferdinand and Isabella (Historical Association pamphlet), p. 4.