The Wise King: A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain, and the Birth of the Renaissance

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Product Details

$29.99  $27.89
Basic Books
Publish Date
6.2 X 9.4 X 1.3 inches | 1.2 pounds

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About the Author

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.


"The Middle Ages have long been categorized as an infertile intermission between the classical Greek and Roman world and the Renaissance.... Doubleday (The Lara Family) here debunks the myth.... [He] convincingly reasons that Alfonso was the epitome of a renaissance man."--Library Journal
"Machiavelli may get all the press, but as Simon Doubleday shows in this fascinating work, the 13th-century Spanish king Alfonso X brought an altogether more enlightened approach to the task of leadership. Promoting culture and learning, moderating temper and greed, acting virtuously by example, even judiciously endorsing games and sex--these were the tasks that Alfonso assigned himself, even while he fulfilled the more traditional roles of warrior and defender of the faith. That he did all this not despite the very real proximity of a rival Islamic kingdom but precisely because of it is one of the most intriguing arguments of Doubleday's beautifully-written book. This political context will not seem entirely unfamiliar to modern readers, but neither, as these engaging pages show, should the forms of wise leadership that Alfonso preached and practiced."--Lisa Abend, Madrid correspondent, TIME magazine, and author of The Sorcerer's Apprentices
"Cosmopolitan, learned, and deeply-cultured, Alfonso is proof that brightness shone in parts of Europe during what later became popularly, if unfairly, known as the Dark Ages. His 13th-century preoccupations with manners, wisdom, friendship, music, sex, sport, greed, fear, and parenting are indeed a mirror of contemporary concerns. Few of us, however, have had the time--or the talent-- to think so deeply or write so eloquently about them. Doubleday's scholarly but accessible writing makes him the ideal guide and companion."--Giles Tremlett, Madrid correspondent, The Guardian and The Economist, and author of Catherine of Aragon and Ghosts of Spain
"Sex, Greed, Wisdom, Joy: In Simon Doubleday's deft treatment, we find the renowned medieval King Alfonso the Wise pondering the same themes that grip the modern imagination. Doubleday is a gifted writer who introduces readers to a turbulent era while inviting thoughtful reflection on our own day."--Chris Lowney, author of Heroic Leadership and A Vanished World
"In this insightful biography of Alfonso X of Castile and León (1221-1284), Doubleday...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.'"--Publishers Weekly