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  You are in: Home > History > The Crescent Remembered  

The Crescent Remembered
Islam and Nationalism on the Iberian Peninsula

Patricia Hertel

Translated by Ellen Yutzy Glebe

In the Series
Studies in Spanish History

Patricia Hertel teaches European history of the 19th and 20th century at the University of Basel. Her research focuses on cultural, political and religious history in Western and Southern Europe. She holds a PhD of the University of Fribourg and a master’s degree of the University of Munich.


Contemporary Spain and Portugal share a historical experience as Iberian states which emerged within the context of al-Andalus. These centuries of Muslim presence in the Middle Ages became a contested heritage during the process of modern nation-building with its varied concepts and constructs of national identities. Politicians, historians and intellectuals debated vigorously the question how the Muslim past could be reconciled with the idea of the Catholic nation.

The Crescent Remembered investigates the processes of exclusion and integration of the Islamic past within the national narratives. It analyzes discourses of historiography, Arabic studies, mythology, popular culture and colonial policies towards Muslim populations from the 19th century to the dictatorships of Franco and Salazar in the 20th century. In particular, it explores why, despite apparent historical similarities, in Spain and Portugal entirely different strategies and discourses concerning the Islamic past emerged. In the process, it seeks to shed light on the role of the Iberian Peninsula as a crucial European historical “contact zone” with Islam.

Europe and Islam: Encounters, memory, imagination
Islam and nationalism on the Iberian Peninsula: Research questions
Methods and sources
State of the research
Religion and nationalism
Iberian history
Images of Islam in Spain and Portugal

1 Islam as a Historical Enemy: The Middle Ages as Portrayed in the Historiography
Islam in the search for a “ser de España”
Between aversion and fascination: Modesto Lafuente y Zamalloa
Exclusion: Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo
Marginalization: Manuel Merry y Colón
From religion to civilization: Rafael Altamira y Crevea
Cultural influence with reservations: Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Cláudio Sánchez-Albornoz
Islam in the “nacionalismos periféricos”: The example of the Basque Country

Islam in the search for Portuguese origins
Demystification: Alexandre Herculano de Carvalho e Araujo
Instruction: Joaquin Pedro de Oliveira Martins
Romanticization: Joaquin Teófilo Fernandes Braga
Reluctance and acceptance: Catholic authors

Comparative conclusions

2 Islam as an Object of Research: Integration of the Islamic Cultural Heritage
Spain’s well-known heritage: The idea of a “Spanish Islam”
Al-Andalus as national reference: Spanish Arabists interpret the past
Islamic architecture as national monument: The example of the Alhambra

Portugal’s forgotten heritage: The late discovery of Islamic roots
Portugal's origins: Portuguese Arabists interpret the past
The discovery of Islamic architecture: The example of Mertola

Comparative conclusions

3 Islam as a “Colonial Other”: The Iberian Dictatorships
Spain: Struggle to expand power (1898–1954)
Reluctance: Images of Islam in the Moroccan wars (1859–1921)
Approaches: “Africanistas” before the Civil War (1909–1936)
Propaganda: Islamic fear as a weapon in the Civil War (1936–1939)
Appropriation: Discourses of brotherhood in early Francoism (1936–1954)

Portugal: Struggle to maintain power (1890–1974)
Civilization: The idea of a Christian empire (1890–1945)
Distrust: Islam as threat for the colonies (1945–1960)
Integration: towards a “Portuguese ecumenism” (1960–1974)

Comparative conclusions

4 Islam as a National Lesson: Staging the Past
Islam as a leading actor: the “Moors of our days” in Spain
History textbooks from the Spanish Restoration to Francoism
Commemorations during the Restoration

Islam as a supporting actor: heroes without enemies in Portugal
History textbooks from the monarchy to the Estado Novo
Commemorations in the Estado Novo (1939–1947)

Comparative conclusions

5 Islam as Folkloristic Invention: Popular Festivals and Regional Identity

“Moors and Christians”: Festivals in the region of Valencia
Invention of tradition: Nationalization of the festivals in the 19th century
Prohibition, fraternization, reservation: The festivals as a reflection of 20th century politics

Bugios, turcos and Charlemagne: Festivals in northern Portugal
The mouro: His historical and mythical significance
Representations of otherness

Comparative conclusions


Primary sources
Monographs and articles
Secondary sources
Reference works

Review excerpts from the German edition:

“This well-written study is based on an extensive collection of sources and literature. It fills an important gap in the scholarship by combining multiple fields and approaches of cultural history to offer new insights into the process of nation-building on a variety of levels.” Hedwig Herold-Schmidt, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, in H-Soz-u-Kult (2013)

“In both Iberian nations (Spain and Portugal), Islam and nationalism are analytically correlated and then compared to each other. …More differences than similarities emerge, which in turn emphasizes the varied development of the nation-building process in the two countries. The arguments are convincing.” Walther L. Bernecker, Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, in: sehepunkte 13 (2013)

“Truly, one of the great legacies of both Spain's and Portugal’s past was the influence of Muslims, beginning as early as the eighth century. One need only travel to Iberia and see the tremendous remnants of the Islamic heritage. What Hertel (Univ. of Basel, Switzerland) sets out to do is show the continued influence (19th and 20th centuries) of Islam in the actual emergence of Spanish and Portuguese nationalism. Though the author does indeed show that Islam was to influence national development, she also demonstrates that Spain and Portugal look at Islam from entirely different perspectives. As a dissertation, the book is very well researched using exclusively secondary resources, but it is also written as a dissertation and thus frequently reads as one. Of primary interest to Iberian scholars interested in the unique development of Spanish and Portuguese national character. Recommended.” CHOICE, D. L. Tengwall, Anne Arundel Community College

Reviewed by Aitana Guia in the Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, Vol. 41: Iss. 1 , Article 21.
Available at:

“Patricia Hertel’s The Crescent Remembered is a noteworthy addition to our understanding of Islam in Modern Europe. Hertel’s monograph offers a compelling journey into the narratives about Islam that informed Spanish and Portuguese academics, politicians, teachers, and folklore participants.” Aitana Guia, California State University Fullerton, in: Bulletin for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies 41 (2016),

“English-language scholarship on Spain and Portugal has generally neglected the formative role of memories of al-Andalus in nation-building in both countries. Fortunately, however, Patricia Hertel’s The Crescent Remembered: Islam and Nationalism on the Iberian Peninsula—recently translated into English from the original German—has decisively filled this historiographic gap.” Jeremy F. Walton, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity Göttingen, in: Revista de Libros 2016,

“The book’s probing analysis of cultural history and nineteenth- and twentieth-century historiography is quite insightful. While intellectually stimulating, it remains a thoroughly enjoyable read.” Marco Cipolloni, Universitá degli Studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia, in: Spagna Contemporanea, No. 48, 14 (2015)


Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
  Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
224 pp. / 229 x 152 mm
Release Date:
Hardback, December 2014; Paperback, February 2016
  Illustrated:   Yes
Hardback Price:
£60.00 / $74.95
  Paperback Price:
£25.00 / $34.95

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