PART ONE: LECTURE

Wikipedia: Isabella I (22 April 1451 – 26 November 1504) was Queen of Castile and León. She and her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon brought stability to both kingdoms that became the basis for the unification of Spain. Later the two laid the foundations for the political unification of Spain under their grandson, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. After a struggle to claim her right to the throne, she reorganized the governmental system, brought the crime rate to the lowest it had been in years, and pulled the kingdom out of the enormous debt her brother had left behind. Her reforms and those she made with her husband had an influence that extended well beyond the borders of their united kingdoms. Isabella and Ferdinand are known for completing the Reconquista, ordering conversion or exile of their Muslim and Jewish subjects and financing Christopher Columbus' 1492 voyage that led to the opening of the "New World". Isabella was born in Madrigal de las Altas Torres, Ávila to John II of Castile and Isabella of Portugal on April 22, 1451. She was the granddaughter of Henry III of Castile and Catherine of Lancaster. At the time of her birth, her older half brother Enrique (Henry) was in line for the throne before her. Enrique, referred to as the English version of his name Henry, was twenty-six years old at that time and married, but he was childless. Her younger brother Alfonso was born two years later on 17 November 1453 and displaced her in the line of succession. When her father, John II of Castile, died in 1454, Henry became King Henry IV. Isabella and Alfonso were left in Henry's care. Her brother Alfonso, mother, and she then moved to Arévalo. These were times of turmoil for Isabella. Isabella lived with her brother and her mother in a castle in poor conditions where they also suffered from shortage of money. Although her father arranged in his will for his children to be financially well taken care of, her half-brother Henry did not comply with their father's wishes, either from a desire to keep his half-siblings restricted or ineptitude. Even though the living conditions were lackluster, under the careful eye of her mother, Isabella was instructed in lessons of practical piety and in the deep reverence for religion.

REQUIRED READING:

Chapter 5, "Birth of the Spanish World"

Mark Williams,

The Story of Spain: The Dramatic History of Europe's Most Fascinating Country,

Golden Era Books; 2nd edition (August 1, 2009),

ISBN 0970696930

RECOMMENDED READING:

This is the best biography of Isabella in English.

Nancy Stuart Rubin,

Cities of LigIsabella of Castile: The First Renaissance Queen,

Asja Press paperback, 2004,

ISBN 0595320767

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly: Isabella (1441-1504) was a master strategist, seizing the crown of Castile and, with husband Ferdinand of Aragon, ruling both her kingdom and his and winning a virtually nonstop succession of wars to preserve their strongholds. Freelance journalist Rubin presents the queen also as loving wife and mother, promoter of the arts and sponsor of Columbus, views emphasized to soften the dominant persona: Isabella la Catolica. Her goal to make Spain exclusively and permanently Catholic drove the queen to supporting the tortures of the Inquisition, burning dissenters at the stake and evicting Jews from the country. Packed with information, the book holds the reader's interest, despite pedestrian prose and a clear bias in Isabella's favor. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal: The flow of books connected with the quincentenary of Columbus's voyage to the Americas continues. General readers interested in the remarkable woman who pressed the unification of the several kingdoms constituting medieval Spain; pacified a rebellious nobility; made Catholicism a national unifying force by using the Inquisition against Muslims and Jews; supported the new learning of the Renaissance; produced five children around whom the history of 16th-century Europe revolved; and, almost by accident, financed the Genoese sailor who "discovered" America believing it was India will find this an enjoyable study. Rubin, however, has a very sketchy knowledge of late medieval-early modern European history, nor is she familiar with the rich recent literature on Muslim Spain, the reconquista , and the direction of current scholarship. The book also suffers from clumsy organization, with 62 short chapters, too many romantic conjectures, contradictions, and a prolix style. The serious student and scholar must look to scholarly monographs. Previewed in "Rediscovering Columbus," LJ 8/91, p. 120-122. - Bennett D. Hill, Georgetown Univ., Washington, D.C. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

PART TWO: Segovia

Images of Queen Isabella's favorite city; the city that launched her reign.