Chapter 1: Spain Before Islam
Imagine a world in which one person could know everything worth knowing. And imagine a world in which everything worth knowing filled a mere few hundred pages. Archbishop Isidore of Seville was such a person, and seventh-century Europe such a world.
Lest Isidore be accused of vanity unbecoming an archbishop, he himself never claimed to be the Man Who Knew Everything. Rather, it was his friend Bishop Braulio of Saragossa who gushed that Isidore's seventh-century encyclopedia comprised "well-nigh everything that ought to be known." Unfortunately, few of Isidore's contemporaries perused that encyclopedia. There...