Review Of "Isabel The Queen: Life And Times" By P. K. Liss

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Liss's lengthy biography of Isabel adds to the growing stack of books generated by the Quincentenary of Columbus. Directed to both a general and an academic readership, the work relies heavily on the rich and well-known chronicles of the reign; their vividness provides for a more successful treatment of Isabel's life than of her times. Particularly striking is the account of her adolescence, when she stood in the shadow of her brother Alfonso until his death and astutely manipulated aristocratic factions. Less convincing is Liss's evaluation of the mature queen. In the heady days of 1492 Liss detects a grand design of la reina to purify the realm, advance into the Atlantic and Africa, and to fulfill her destiny. Cast in terms of a sharp turn from medieval to modern, this assessment minimizes pragmatic and traditional qualities of the Catholic Kings. Although students wishing a succinct introduction in English to the reign should consult J. Hillgarth's The Spanish Kingdoms, 1250-1516 (2 v., Oxford 1976-78), or F. Fernandez-Armesto's Ferdinand and Isabella (1975), this detailed study will be of interest to undergraduate libraries.


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