Honors College Theses

Publication Date



History (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Kathleen Comerford


In 1492, after Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand defeated the last Muslim stronghold on the Iberian Peninsula, they presented the Jewish community throughout their kingdoms with a choice: leaving or converting to Catholicism. The Spanish kingdoms had been anti-Jewish for centuries, forcing the creation of ghettos, the use of identifying clothing, etc. in an effort to isolate and “other” the Jews, who unsuccessfully sought peaceful co-existence. Those who did not accept expulsion, but converted, were the subject of further prejudice stemming from a belief that Jewish blood was tainted and that conversions were undertaken for financial gain. The government’s dramatic action of banishment seemed more appropriate toward the non-conformist Muslim community, rather than the Jewish community. The economic reasons behind why the Jews were targeted were the following: first, medieval Spanish Jews emphasized education, which led to better paying professional occupations. Second, Jews held positions in banking and were subject to fewer regulations involving loans. Spanish Catholics believed that the Jews had too much economic influence over the kingdoms, and this resentment, combined with religious prejudice, led to the expulsion.