1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Moriscos

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MORISCOS (i.e. little Moors), the name given to the Spanish Mahommedans who accepted baptism and their descendants. Many, if not most, of them were in reality of the same race as the Christians, and were descended from converts to Islam. Those Mahommedans who retained their religion under Christian rulers were known as Mudéjars, a word of Arabic origin which has been interpreted as meaning “those who remained” or “were left.” Until the 15th century they were numerous, and enjoyed free exercise of their religion, which was secured to them by capitulations and treaties. Their number had been considerably diminished by the time of the conquest of Granada in 1492. By the terms of the capitulation of the city freedom of worship was secured to the Mahommedans. But the policy of the Catholic sovereigns, who desired to establish unity of faith among their subjects, and the influence of the Church, soon led to violations of the treaty. The first Christian archbishop of Granada, Talavera, made some progress in converting the people peacefully. But at the end of 1499 Cardinal Jimenez insisted on adopting coercive measures. A rebellion ensued, and the Mahommedans were suppressed. Want of power, or other obstacles, delayed the final extinction of tolerated Mahommedanism in all parts of Spain, but by 1525 it was everywhere suppressed. The last remains of it were crushed in Valencia, where the Mahommedans were furiously attacked by the Christian peasantry during the great agrarian revolt known as the Germania, 1520–1521. As they were dependent on the protection of the landlords, the Mahommedans were docile tenants, and their competition weighed heavily on the Christians. The same quality of industry remained to the Moriscos, and excited the envy of their Christian fellow countrymen. The feelings with which they were regarded are admirably shown by Cervantes (who shared them to the full) in his “Conversation of the Two Dogs.” In 1568 the government of Philip II. issued an edict, which ordered them to renounce all their Moorish ways of life and to give up their children to be educated by Christian priests. The result was a rebellion in Granada, which was put down with great difficulty. The Moriscos were expelled from Granada and scattered over other parts of Spain. Many fled to Africa, where the more spirited among them took to piracy at Algiers and other ports. They still maintained relations with their kinsfolk in Spain, and the whole coast suffered from their incursions. The Moriscos entered into relations with other enemies of Spain, and notably, with France. Henry IV. included a plan for supporting a Morisco rebellion in the great scheme for the destruction of the Spanish monarchy, which he was about to put into execution when he was murdered on the 14th of May 1610. These intrigues were known to the Spanish government and inspired it with terror. The expulsion of the whole body of Moriscos was decided on in 1608, and the edict was published on the 22nd of September 1609. The expulsion was carried out with great cruelty. The number driven out has been variously estimated at 120,000 or at 3,000,000. In some known cases the expelled Moriscos suffered martyrdom in Africa as Christians. A few were left in Spain as domestic slaves, and some contrived to return in secret. Cases of crypto-Mahommedanism continued to come before the Inquisition till the 18th century.

See The Moriscos of Spain: their Conversion and Expulsion, by H. C. Lea (London, 1901).