On This Day
1340 – Reconquista: Portuguese and Castilian forces halt a Muslim invasion at the Battle of Río Salado.
The Reconquista[note 1] (Asturleonese, Galician, Portuguese and Spanish for “reconquest”) was a period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula of about 781 years between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711, the expansion of the Christian kingdoms throughout Hispania, and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada in 1492.
The beginning of the Reconquista is traditionally marked with the Battle of Covadonga (718 or 722), the first known victory in Hispania by Christian military forces since the 711 military invasion undertaken by combined Arab-Berber forces. The rebellion led by Pelagius defeated a Muslim army in the mountains of northern Hispania and established the independent Christian Kingdom of Asturias.
In the late 10th century, the Umayyad vizier Almanzor waged military campaigns for 30 years to subjugate the northern Christian kingdoms. His armies ravaged the north, even sacking the great Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. When the government of Córdoba disintegrated in the early 11th century, a series of petty successor states known as taifas emerged. The northern kingdoms took advantage of this situation and struck deep into al-Andalus; they fostered civil war, intimidated the weakened taifas, and made them pay large tributes (parias) for “protection”.
After a Muslim resurgence in the 12th century, the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian forces in the 13th century after the decisive battle of Navas de Tolosa (1212)—Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south. After 1492, the entire peninsula was controlled by Christian rulers. The conquest was followed by a series of edicts (1499–1526) which forced the conversions of Muslims in Spain, who were later expelled from the Iberian peninsula by the decrees of King Philip III in 1609. Likewise, on July 30, 1492, all the Jewish community – some 200,000 people – were forcibly expelled.
Beginning in the 19th century, traditional historiography has used the term Reconquista for what was earlier thought of as a restoration of the Visigothic Kingdom over conquered territories. The concept of Reconquista, consolidated in Spanish historiography in the second half of the 19th century, was associated with the development of a Spanish national identity, emphasizing nationalistic and romantic aspects.
Born On This Day
1728 – Mary Hayley, English businesswoman (d. 1808)
Mary Hayley née Wilkes (30 October 1728 – 9 May 1808) was an English businesswoman. She parlayed an inheritance from her first husband into a sizeable estate with her second husband. Upon the latter’s death, she took over the business and successfully operated a shipping firm from 1781 to 1792 before living out her life in Bath.
Hayley was born in 1728 in London to the prosperous distiller Israel Wilkes junior and was a sister to the politician John Wilkes. Kind-hearted but opinionated, she lived an unconventional life and was known for her astute observation and discussion, based upon her wide reading. Refusing to bow to custom, she attended trials at the Old Bailey and travelled throughout Britain to satisfy her wide-ranging curiosity. Marrying a widower, Samuel Storke junior, in 1752, she became a widow within the year with a young step-son. As her husband’s sole heir, she inherited his business and soon after his death married his chief clerk, George Hayley. He turned out to be a shrewd businessman, increasing her inherited wealth tenfold during his lifetime. Their business established extensive trade relationships with the American colonies, supplying the tea which gained infamy in the Boston Tea Party.
After her second husband’s death and the end of the American Revolution, American merchants owed Hayley a large debt and she became one of the few Britons who successfully recouped their losses after the war. In 1784, she purchased a frigate used by both the Continental Navy and the Royal Navy and had it refurbished as a whaling and sealing vessel. She rechristened the frigate the United States and moved to Boston, where she lived for eight years. Unusually for women at the time, she became a benefactor, donating money and goods to charitable endeavours, and ran a whaling business. Her first venture, a voyage to the Falkland Islands, resulted in a shipment of whale oil, which was seized by the British government in 1785. She successfully recouped her losses from the Crown, as it was unable to prove that she owed duty, as British merchants were exempt if one-third of their crew was also British.
In 1786, Hayley married a Scottish merchant in Boston, Patrick Jeffrey. In 1792, she left him and returned to England with the stipulation that he never again appear in her presence. After a brief stay in London, she lived out her days in Bath.
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