Sefarad, vol. 73/2, 2013

Por Michal Friedman.
When José Amador de los Ríos first published Los Judíos de España: Estudios históricos, políticos y literarios in 1848, he was well aware of the novelty of his work. In his acceptance speech as an Académico de número at the Royal Academy of History in February of that year –an honor bestowed on him due to the broad national acclaim he earned upon the publication ofEstudios– he proclaimed that “la historia escrita hasta nuestros días es solo una historia imperfecta del pueblo cristiano y todos los esfuerzos de reconocer y apreciar la influencia ejercida por los hebreos y los árabes todavía se ha intentado”.
Amador de los Ríos’ Estudios, the first modern monograph to seriously consider the Jewish presence in the Iberian Peninsula, not only earned him much acclaim within Spain; it also placed the history of the Jews of Spain within the realm of Historia Patria, while serving as an integral point of reference and inspiration for both Christian and Jewish scholars of Iberian Jewish history ever since.
First published in 1848, Estudios históricos, políticos y literarios is over six hundred pages in length, stretching from the arrival of the Jews in the Iberian Península through their expulsion from Spain in 1492 and subsequent dispersion throughout the Sephardic Diaspora. The work is divided into three “essays”. The first one, “Reseña histórico-política”, based on a series of shorter articles Amador de los Ríos published in 1845 in Revista de El Español, discusses the history of the Jews of Spain from their inicial arrival in the península through their expulsion in 1492. The second and third, titled “Escritores rabínico-españoles” and “Escritores judíos posteriores a su expulsión de España”, constitute literary studies of Jewish and converso authors in both the peninsula and the Sephardic diaspora. In the conclusion to his study, Amador de los Ríos briefly addresses the situation of the Jews from the 18thcentury until his own time, assessing the possibility of their complete emancipation. The primary and almost exclusive spatial foci of Estudios is notably Castile and Christian Spain, while the literary essays are focused on Jewish and converso authors who wrote in Castilian. Such focus reflects Amador de los Ríos’ limited knowledge of Hebrew, yet perhaps even most importantly, the purpose behind his study: his patriotic interest in demonstrating what he refers to as “la marcha progresiva de la civilización y cultura del pueblo castellano”, which he, like other Spanish historians of his time located in the middle ages. In his introduction to Estudios, Amador de los Ríos moreover admonishes his fellow Spaniards for their ignorance of this important part of their national patrimony, claiming such ignorance “hundió en el polvo multitud de títulos gloriosos para la nación española”.
Despite the importance of Estudios históricos, políticos y literarios, the original edition was reprinted only once in Buenos Aires (1942) and until now a new edition has never been issued. This new, remarkably elegant and diligently reworked edition, published by Urgoiti Editores as part of its Colección Grandes Obras with the collaboration of Nitai Shinan (The National Library of Israel, Jerusalem), is therefore a most laudable endeavor which merits the enthusiastic welcome of a wide range of scholars of Sephardic and Iberian history and letters. The editors, who have worked from the original 1848 edition, wisely have chosen to minimize textual interventions. They clearly have taken painstaking measures to maintain Amador de los Rios’ particular discursive style, a style that is integral to any reading of the work, while modifying only the orthography and punctuation to comply with contemporary standards. Other revisions, such as corrections of Amador de los Ríos’ use of Hebrew terms or imprecise bibliographical citations, always note the original version in a footnote or editorial mark. An exhaustive bibliography of the works of Amador de los Ríos at the end of the book provides an invitation to further explore the manifold aspects of the author’s prolific scholarship.
The new edition, however, would not be complete without Nitai Shinan’s commanding and skillfully researched preliminary study. Shinan’s study serves as an introduction to Amador de los Rios, his oeuvre and Estudios, and most importantly, it carefully situates Amador de los Ríos and his study on the Jews within the divergent, and frankly quite tangled, web of ideologies and historiographical traditions of 19th century Spain, as well as within a longer tradition of Spanish writing on the Jews. In this context, Shinan provides engaged discussion of the Estudios’ enlightenment-era antecedents. Such scholarly treatments of Spain’s Jewish past aimed neither to criticize the history of Jewish religious persecution in the peninsula, nor to advocate for religious tolerance. Rather they were the product of growing interest among enlightened Spanish intellectuals, in Jewish contributions to Spain’s cultural legacy and civil history, thus breaking with earlier writings based on myth and legend rooted in medieval Christian tradition. The other major historiographical tradition Shinan presents as foundational in historical writing on the Jews in modern Spain is the liberal historiography of the late 18th and early 19th century. Shinan illustrates compellingly how in their struggle to curtail and abolish structures off theAncien Régime, some champions of early Spanish liberalism –including those who at an earlier stage expressed explicitly antisemitic views– opportunely, and in the service of political polemic, touted the Jews as symbolic victims of the tyranny and religious intolerance of the Church and the Inquisition. These disparate historiographical traditions remained influential during the 19thcentury and Shinan concludes that Amador de los Ríos chose to follow in the path paved by intellectuals of the Spanish Enlightenment.
Shinan provides a thorough biographical sketch of Amador’s scholarly formation against the backdrop of the turbulent political landscape in Spain of the first half of the 19th century. This landscape was marked by civil wars between liberals and Carlist Catholic zealots, as well as fighting between the different liberal factions which ensued in the wake of the collapse of Spain’sAncien Régime. Amidst such turbulence, concerted efforts to modernize the state and its apparatus depended on the training of scholars, like Amador de los Ríos, well versed in Spanish history, archeology and letters, to serve as functionaries dedicated to the institutionalization of Historia Patria and the construction of a so-called national patrimony. In this context Shinan contends that Amador de los Ríos’ identification with the moderado liberal regime which he loyally served came to shape his writing on the Jews. Shinan thus poignantly inquires how Amador de los Ríos “un cristiano profundo, amante de las glorias nacionales –adquiridas en su opinión durante la Edad Media–, admirador de los Reyes Católicos, e investigador infatigable de la cultura española en todas sus dimensiones” was able to reconcile these dimensions with his profound interest in the history of Spanish Jewry, in Estudios.
In Shinan’s final assessment, Amador’s narration of Jewish presence and contributions is framed by a grander, far-reaching narrative: “un relato colosal, universal, de fuertes implicaciones teológicas. Es el sino de un pueblo derramado por el mundo como expiación de su crimen deicida, lo que otorga a la historia de los judíos españoles unas connotaciones metahistóricas, teológicas, preconcebidas, en incluso fatales”. It is this metanarrative which thus comes to inform Amador de los Ríos’ discussion of topics such as theReconquista, the mass conversions and massacres of 1391 and the Inquisition and expulsion of 1492. In his discussion of the reception of Estudios, Shinan recounts how the work was appropriated by divergent political actors and became central in the struggle over libertad de cultos. Shinan’s essay helps us to assess Amador’s particular brand of 19th century liberal Catholicism and its implications for a greater understanding of 19th century modes of religiosity and liberalism in Spain, while it also provides a more nuanced framework for considering the place of the Jewish past and Jewishness in the historiography and politics of an emergent modem Spain.
By making Estudios históricos, políticos y literarios accessible to a wider audience and placing it in the series of Grandes Obras, this fine new edition serves to return Amador de los Ríos and his classic pioneering work on Iberian Jewish history to a prominent place in studies of what an early generation of scholars would have referred to as saber patrio. This edition, and Nitai Shinan’s comprehensive introduction, serves as a fitting point of departure for contemporary scholars to engage in more self conscious reflections on this very notion, while aiming to broaden our understanding of Spain’s engagement with its Jewish past. Finally, in the wake of renewed debate by scholars of Iberian history over the uses and relevance of the concept of convivencia, and issues of cultural interface in studying Jews and other minorities in medieval Iberia, Amador de los Ríos’ Estudios and the discussions it engendered, serve as a reminder of the longevity of such debate and how this history continues to stir passions.

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