The Catholic University of America Press

Captives and Their Saviors in the Medieval Crown of Aragon

Jarbel Rodriguez

Cloth 978-0-8132-1475-7 $69.95
March 2007 Out of Print
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Captivity was a significant and wide-ranging problem in medieval Iberia. The long struggle for dominance in the Iberian Peninsula between Christianity and Islam produced periods of sporadic but intense warfare. When truces prevailed and organized warfare receded, piracy and raiding took its place. All of these activities generated Christian and Muslim captives, often in large numbers, and, not surprisingly, both sides tried to get their captives back. This book explores the efforts made by the Crown of Aragon in eastern Spain in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to free its subjects in Muslim captivity.

Captives and Their Saviors in the Medieval Crown of Aragon argues that by this time the ransoming efforts were on a kingdom-wide scale engaging not only professional ransomers, merchants, and officials of the crown but the population at large. Using a number of different methods that included ransoming expeditions by religious orders like the Mercedarians, prisoner exchanges, diplomatic initiatives and embassies, and negotiations carried out by the families of captives or their agents, the Crown of Aragon and its subjects galvanized their collective will and their resources to rescue their captives, sometimes successfully, often not.

The book also reconstructs the experience of captivity as it follows the captives from the time of their capture to their years in confinement and, for a lucky few, to their return home. The book outlines the efforts of family members, friends, and government and ecclesiastical officials to bring the captives back and some of the economic and emotional impact that captivity had on those relatives and friends left at home. Captives and Their Saviors highlights a story that was all too common in medieval Iberia and yet still resonates today.


Jarbel Rodriguez is assistant professor of history at San Francisco State University.


"It is also a work of meticulous scholarship illuminated by an imaginative and compassionate understanding of the plight of its main subjects: not only those unfortunate enough to be taken prisoner, but also the family and friends who struggled to gain their freedom, even at the cost of financial destitution. . . . Rodriguez's study rests primarily on his own extensive archival research, from which numerous detailed examples are drawn to illustrate the wider arguments skillfully presented throughout the book. . . . This is an exemplary work of humane scholarship that informs its readers and illuminates its subject, and is deserving of the highest praise." -- International History Review

"In a book that deftly balances both the micro and the macro perspectives, Jarbel Rodriguez recounts the trials and tribulations of individual Christian captives detained by Muslim captors in Granada and North Africa, the efforts of their families and local communities to redeem them, and then considers the broader impact this problem had on the social organization of the medieval Crown of Aragon. . . . [O]n the basis of his own extensive research in the Archivo de la Corona de Aragon and the notarial and diocesan archives of Barcelona, [Rodriguez] gives us a much more fully fleshed-out picture of what life was like for captives as well as a more comprehensive discussion of the broad spectrum of individuals and institutions who became involved in the redemptionist effort." -- Debra Blumenthal, Speculum

"Rodriguez should be commended for producing a well-researched and well-written account." -- Peter Konieczny, Sixteenth Century Journal

Product Details

Pages:xxiii. 225 pages

Dimensions:5.5x8.5 inches


CIP Information: 2006006396/ HT1315.I78R63 2007/ 306.3'62094655--dc22


1. Slavery--Islamic Empire--History

2. Spaniards--Islamic Empire--History

3. Ransom--Islamic Empire--History

4. Ransom--Spain--Aragon--History

5. Aragon (Spain)--Relations--Islamic Empire

6. Islamic Empire--Relations--Spain--Aragon

7. Freedmen--Spain--Aragon--Social conditions