The End of Days: A Story of Tolerance, Tyranny, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain


327 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 1-895555-73-6
DDC 946'.004924






Reviewed by Richard C. Smith

Richard C. Smith is a professor in the Department of Classics,
University of Alberta.


The year 1492 marks not only the discovery of North America by Columbus
on behalf of the Spanish crown but also the conquest of the last Islamic
kingdom in Spain and, at the urging of the Inquisition, the expulsion of
all Jews from Spain, a banishment that did not end until 1860.
Discerning parallels between the events in Spain and the Nazi program to
exterminate Jews, journalist Erna Paris endeavors to illustrate the ways
in which one of the most tolerant societies in medieval Europe became
one of the most intolerant by the beginning of the age of exploration
and colonialism.

Although the Inquisition was a specific product of Christianity, Paris
does not feel that the Spanish experience was primarily due to
Christianity as such, since fanatical Islamic crusaders (the Almohads)
had at the end of the 12th century forced an end to the previous
tolerance of the caliphate of Cordoba and also required Jews to convert
or emigrate. Intolerance, she feels, is a basic aspect of the human
condition and must be guarded against in any society. At the end of the
book, she provides an outstanding chapter on the modern dangers to
social tolerance that continue to plague not only Europe but also Canada
and the United States.

Paris paints a vivid picture of the integration of Jews into
late-medieval Spain. She shows

how famine and plague created a climate that facilitated the
scapegoating of Jews. With the growth of state power under Ferdinand and
Isabella, even those who had converted to Christianity were persecuted
in the name of “racial purity.” Paris shows how Torquemada and the
Spanish crown were able to convert popular hatred of taxes into hatred
of an educated minority that had in fact been supporters of the crown.
The End of Days is an outstanding cautionary tale.


Paris, Erna., “The End of Days: A Story of Tolerance, Tyranny, and the Expulsion of the Jews from Spain,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,