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Rulership and Justice

Islamic Period

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Execution Without Trial Under the Moorish Kings of Granada

Execution Without Trial Under the Moorish Kings of Granada

This vivid and violent image reflects European fascination with the supposed tyranny of Oriental despots. It depicts an execution where both perpetrator and victim are Moors, the European term for the Muslims who ruled Spain and North Africa in the medieval period. Granada, the kingdom referenced in the painting’s title, was the last Iberian Muslim city-state to fall to the Castilians (1492 CE), an event which marked the end of the Reconquista and the initiation of the Jewish and Muslim expulsion from Spain. We have stated elsewhere in this module that describing Middle Eastern politics and governance exclusively in terms of authoritarianism or despotism distorts a more complex historical reality, but this notion was (and continues to be) a relatively common western prejudice. For many Europeans of the nineteenth-century, Regnault’s painting captured the essence of rulership and justice in North Africa and the Middle East.

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