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The Wise King: A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain, and the Birth of the Renaissance
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Basic Books 2015
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An illuminating biography of Alfonso X, the 13th-century philosopher-king whose affinity for Islamic culture left an indelible mark on Western civilization
"If I had been present at the Creation," the thirteenth-century Spanish philosopher-king Alfonso X is said to have stated, "Many faults in the universe would have been avoided." Known as El Sabio, "the Wise," Alfonso was renowned by friends and enemies alike for his sparkling intellect and extraordinary cultural achievements. In The Wise King, celebrated historian Simon R. Doubleday traces the story of the king's life and times, leading us deep into his emotional world and showing how his intense admiration for Spain's rich Islamic culture paved the way for the European Renaissance.
In 1252, when Alfonso replaced his more militaristic father on the throne of Castile and Leóthe battle to reconquer Muslim territory on the Iberian Peninsula was raging fiercely. But even as he led his Christian soldiers onto the battlefield, Alfonso was seduced by the glories of Muslim Spain. His engagement with the Arabic-speaking culture of the South shaped his pursuit of astronomy, for which he was famed for centuries, and his profoundly humane vision of the world, which Dante, Petrarch, and later Italian humanists would inherit. A composer of lyric verses, and patron of works on board games, hunting, and the properties of stones, Alfonso is best known today for his Cantigas de Santa Marí/i> (Songs of Holy Mary), which offer a remarkable window onto his world. His ongoing struggles as a king and as a man were distilled-in art, music, literature, and architecture-into something sublime that speaks to us powerfully across the centuries.
An intimate biography of the Spanish ruler in whom two cultures converged, The Wise King introduces readers to a Renaissance man before his time, whose creative energy in the face of personal turmoil and existential threats to his kingdom would transform the course of Western history.
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Street Date:
12/01/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780465073917
ASIN:
B012271ZHU
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APA Citation (style guide)

Simon R. Doubleday. (2015). The Wise King: A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain, and the Birth of the Renaissance. Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Simon R. Doubleday. 2015. The Wise King: A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain, and the Birth of the Renaissance. Basic Books.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Simon R. Doubleday, The Wise King: A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain, and the Birth of the Renaissance. Basic Books, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Simon R. Doubleday. The Wise King: A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain, and the Birth of the Renaissance. Basic Books, 2015. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Simon R. Doubleday is Professor of History at Hofstra University, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies, and author of The Lara Family: Crown and Nobility in Medieval Spain. He received his BA from Cambridge University and his PhD in Medieval History from Harvard, and is the recipient of awards for Outstanding Scholarly Achievement from Hofstra and for teaching from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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shortDescription
An illuminating biography of Alfonso X, the 13th-century philosopher-king whose affinity for Islamic culture left an indelible mark on Western civilization
"If I had been present at the Creation," the thirteenth-century Spanish philosopher-king Alfonso X is said to have stated, "Many faults in the universe would have been avoided." Known as El Sabio, "the Wise," Alfonso was renowned by friends and enemies alike for his sparkling intellect and extraordinary cultural achievements. In The Wise King, celebrated historian Simon R. Doubleday traces the story of the king's life and times, leading us deep into his emotional world and showing how his intense admiration for Spain's rich Islamic culture paved the way for the European Renaissance.
In 1252, when Alfonso replaced his more militaristic father on the throne of Castile and Leóthe battle to reconquer Muslim territory on the Iberian Peninsula was raging fiercely. But even as he led his Christian...
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title
The Wise King
fullDescription
An illuminating biography of Alfonso X, the 13th-century philosopher-king whose affinity for Islamic culture left an indelible mark on Western civilization
"If I had been present at the Creation," the thirteenth-century Spanish philosopher-king Alfonso X is said to have stated, "Many faults in the universe would have been avoided." Known as El Sabio, "the Wise," Alfonso was renowned by friends and enemies alike for his sparkling intellect and extraordinary cultural achievements. In The Wise King, celebrated historian Simon R. Doubleday traces the story of the king's life and times, leading us deep into his emotional world and showing how his intense admiration for Spain's rich Islamic culture paved the way for the European Renaissance.
In 1252, when Alfonso replaced his more militaristic father on the throne of Castile and Leóthe battle to reconquer Muslim territory on the Iberian Peninsula was raging fiercely. But even as he led his Christian soldiers onto the battlefield, Alfonso was seduced by the glories of Muslim Spain. His engagement with the Arabic-speaking culture of the South shaped his pursuit of astronomy, for which he was famed for centuries, and his profoundly humane vision of the world, which Dante, Petrarch, and later Italian humanists would inherit. A composer of lyric verses, and patron of works on board games, hunting, and the properties of stones, Alfonso is best known today for his Cantigas de Santa Marí/i> (Songs of Holy Mary), which offer a remarkable window onto his world. His ongoing struggles as a king and as a man were distilled-in art, music, literature, and architecture-into something sublime that speaks to us powerfully across the centuries.
An intimate biography of the Spanish ruler in whom two cultures converged, The Wise King introduces readers to a Renaissance man before his time, whose creative energy in the face of personal turmoil and existential threats to his kingdom would transform the course of Western history.
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      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        October 5, 2015
        In this insightful biography of Alfonso X of Castile and León (1221–1284), Doubleday, a professor of history at Hofstra University and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies, illuminates the complexity of society in 13th-century Spain and, through the figure of the king, “exorcises the myth that medieval Europe was mired in a dark age.” Doubleday recounts Alfonso’s life in roughly chronological order while giving each chapter a theme—hunting, friendship, medicine, etc.—that contextualizes medieval Spanish society. Alfonso, known as the Wise, acquired and wrote books, and he ordered translations from Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin into Castilian, even commissioning a version of Muhammad’s night journey to Jerusalem. But Doubleday doesn’t paint Alfonso’s reign as utopian; much of it was spent continuing the conquest of the Muslim kingdoms, though he did join forces with them as allies when necessary. Alfonso also taxed his subjects dry to support his attempts to become the Holy Roman emperor, and at the end of his life his sons rebelled against him. Throughout, Doubleday pulls quotations from the many books that Alfonso read and wrote, letting readers into the mind of the thoughtful, devout, flawed king who desired wisdom and good governance above all. Agent: Deirdre Mullane, Mullane Literary.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        September 15, 2015
        The life and times of a Spanish monarch who invigorated cultural life. For more than 30 years, Alfonso X (1221-1284) reigned over a country beset by divisiveness, strife, and uncertainty. As Doubleday (History/Hofstra Univ.; co-editor: Why the Middle Ages Matter: Medieval Light on Modern Injustice, 2011, etc.) portrays him in this deeply researched history, Alfonso aspired to be a "teacher to his people," ensuring "not only their political unity but also their happiness and well-being." Kings, Alfonso believed, "resemble a mirror in which men view their own images." He hoped to reflect "a Solomon...bequeathing his wisdom to his subjects and to future generations." Literate in history, science, and the arts, Alfonso wrote texts that long survived him: songs, works on astronomy and astrology, and a legal and philosophical tract that influenced United States law into the 19th century. He aimed to institute reforms that would mark "a first step away from an older feudal order" to a rational, centralized government in which "the king and people had mutual obligations." Central to Alfonso's beliefs was the importance of happiness. He promoted games and sport, incorporated comedy in his religious songs, and delighted in dirty jokes. Laughter, he believed, was "good medicine." Doubleday helpfully contextualizes Alfonso's convictions and actions. He explores, for example, the place of humor in medieval culture; the meaning of friendship; attitudes about fatherhood; and assumptions about planetary and astral influence on human life. He asserts that Alfonso created a Castilian Renaissance centuries before the more famous Italian artistic flourishing, but he is also clear about the king's shortcomings. Challenged by Muslim rebellion, roiling European politics, betrayal by family and friends, and repeated thwarting of his campaign to become Holy Roman emperor, Alfonso could be rash, vindictive, and manipulative. Drawing on Alfonso's writings, contemporary-often contradictory-sources, and much scholarship, Doubleday has created a measured, persuasive history of a king and his precarious times. An illuminating biography of "an intelligent and thoughtful man."

        COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 15, 2015

        The Middle Ages have long been categorized as an infertile intermission between the classical Greek and Roman world and the Renaissance. This view has slowly been eradicated by scholars, yet the popular perception of the Dark Ages persists. Doubleday (The Lara Family) here debunks the myth. His investigation of Alfonso X of Castile (1221-84) depicts a multifaceted king whose interests ranged from astronomy to literature, art, hunting, board games, music and architecture. Alfonso also showed a surprising degree, for the time period, of tolerance and appreciation for both Muslim and Jewish cultural contributions, seeking to incorporate meritorious aspects of these societies into his kingdom. That the king was able to pursue so many intellectual interests in the midst of vying for corporeal gains, and the mantle of the Holy Roman Emperor, speaks to his virtuosity. Doubleday convincingly reasons that Alfonso was the epitome of a renaissance man. VERDICT This thorough portrait of an important medieval ruler and philosopher will be beneficial to the study of medieval kingship and philosophy.--Brian Renvall, Mesalands Community Coll., Tucumcari, NM

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

subtitle
A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain, and the Birth of the Renaissance
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