This book investigates the notion of what are still believed to be two separate histories of Europe — before and after its 1492 encounter with the majority of the earth's population — and offers a unified model of the tenuous constitution of Christian Europe. It focuses on the regions eventually known as Spain, and on their particular colonial venture in the New World, in the centuries closer to the beginning of the New World encounter — a period of both internal expansion and renewed tensions at the boundaries of Christendom, Judaism, and Islam. The book considers the period from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries as a time of powerful development and transformations in Christian European understandings of selfhood and identity; the confrontation between the ideological edifice of Christian community on one hand and imaginary Muslims as well as Muslim power on the other; the ways in which Jews and Indians served as symbolic building blocks in constructing these dual bounds of Christendom; and the question of the boundaries of humanity.
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