Castro Quesada, Americo°

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CASTRO QUESADA, AMERICO ° (1885–1972), Spanish historian and literary critic. Castro was a professor at the University of Madrid and later at Princeton University. He interpreted the culture and history of Spain as a result of the coming together of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism, which created a peculiarly Hispanic form of life, different both from the East and from the civilization of Western Europe. Problems of the Hispanic personality are treated especially in his España en su historia; Cristianos, Moros y Judíos (1948; Structure of Spanish History, 1954), and in its revised and expanded version, La realidad historica de España (1954, 19622; The Spaniards, 1971). He suggests that the cultural superiority of the Jews in medieval Spain allowed them to exercise a "supremacy from below." The expulsion of 1492 was in Castro's view the result of uncontainable pressures from below. He believes that the preoccupation with purity of lineage in Christian Spain from the 15th century on was a transfer of a Jewish concept, due to the infiltration of converts into Christian society (De la edad conflictiva, (1961). The use of secrecy and informers by the Inquisition was a continuation of methods used by Jewish tribunals. Among his important works is Los Españoles como llegaron a serlo (1956). Ultimately, according to Castro, it was the Jews and their descendants the Conversos who were responsible for the discrimination by the Spaniards against the New Christians because of the latter's blood or race and for the cruel and unjust methods employed by the Inquisition and the maltreatment of those who were brought to trial before it. These were all derived from Jewish sources and traditions. Castro relied on "evidence" from the Bible, from the origin of the Spanish aristocracy, from medieval Jewish authors like Santob de Carrión (Shem Tov ben Ardutiel), R. Moses Arragel, R. Asher ben Yehiel, R. Solomon ben Adret, and others. Castro's evidence is based entirely on a basic misunderstanding of the sources, of the Jews' understanding of the biblical text, and of the essence of Jewish law. Similarly all the evidence he derives from Jewish sources in the Iberian Peninsula reflects a fundamental ignorance of the concepts that guided their authors. In trying to explain the racist attitude of Christian society which had to be, by Christian definition, anti-racist, Castro thought he had found the correct explanation. His explanation, however, was based on a complete misunderstanding of the Jewish sources, which he believed to be responsible for the racial and discriminatory attitudes adopted by old Christians in Spain.

add. bibliography:

J.H. Silversmith, in: J. Rubía Barcia and S. Margaretten (eds.), Américo Castro and the Meaning of Spanish Civilization (1976), 137–65; J. Pérez, Isabelle et Ferdinand, rois catholiquesvd'Espagne (1988), 427–37; B. Netanyahu, in: paajr 46/47 (1979–80), 397–457; G. Araya, El pensamientode Américo Castro; estructura intercastiza de la historia de España (1983), 141–214; J. Beverly, in: R.E. Surtz et al. eds.), Américo Castro: The Impact of His Thought… (1988), 141–49 (also in: Ideologies and Literature, n.s. 2, 1 (1987), 125–33); M.E. Gerli, in: Kentuchy Romance Quarterly, 26 (1979), 169–79; N. Luna, in: Revista de Estudios Hispánicos, 17 (1983), 177–87; C. Segre, in: Rassegna Mensile di Israel, 49 (1983), 343–59; J.N. Hillgarth, in: History and Theory, 24 (1985), 23–43.

[Kenneth R. Scholberg /

Yom Tov Assis (2nd ed.)]

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Castro Quesada, Americo°

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