City of Illusions: A History of Granada by Helen Rodgers & Stephen Cavendish - review by David Abulafia

David Abulafia

Alhambra Confidential

City of Illusions: A History of Granada


Hurst 309pp £18.99

The best way into the history of Granada is to start by considering what the city is not. Robert Irwin began his classic book on the Alhambra by repeating what official tourist guides say, before pointing out that it was all wrong. Helen Rodgers and Stephen Cavendish also enter the history of Granada through untruths, showing how in 1754 the amateur archaeologist Juan de Flores began to dig up supposedly Roman remains there, which he had in fact placed underground himself. Flores was determined to disprove the idea that the city was founded only at the start of the 11th century by the Berber warlord Zawi.

Such ‘illusions’, to quote the title of the book, have been generated throughout the city’s history. In the late 16th century, mysterious lead tablets turned up on the hill of Sacromonte, the caves of which were for centuries home to the city’s Gypsies. These tablets included passages written in curious

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