Portuguese Tangier (1471-1662): Colonial
Urban Fabric as Cross-Cultural Skeleton
Martin Malcolm Elbl
Portuguese Studies Review Monographs Series, No. 1. Toronto
and Peterborough: Baywolf Press, 2013. 1,074 pp; 138 black-and-white ills. (maps, diagrams, structural schematics, spatial analysis of archival sources ); Appendices; Glossary; Bibliography; Index; 9' x 6.5' (2' spine); $140.00; ISBN 978-0-921437-50-5 (paperback [soft-cover]).
Portuguese Tangier (1471-1662) is a “virtual archaeology” exploration of the Portuguese urban fabric heritage, both vanished and preserved, in the dynamically expanding Moroccan port city of Tangier, on the south shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. Using a broad range of original sources and analytical tools, the study rebuilds for the mind’s eye the historic town partially demolished by the English after their brief occupation (1662-1684). Portuguese Tangier stands at the intersection of well-known documents, recently discovered archival data (plans and building estimates), and unexpected patterns that have emerged from the sources and the literature as well as from painstaking spatio-temporal GIS modelling. The book probes and challenges a rainbow of established interpretations and entrenched Tangerois urban legends. It ranges widely, from revisionist hypotheses to newly confirmed toponyms, controversial architectural details, and the design of the fortifications. The scope extends to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century environmental factors affecting the Old Port (studied with the help of a new bathymetric model of the historic anchorage now buried under landfill). The well-known "Tangier" series of drawings and etchings by the Bohemian artist Wenceslas (Václav) Hollar (1607-1677) comes into its own here as a research source, in a fresh, analytical, structurally precise context. The Portuguese period is discussed in a framework that brings into critical perspective both the pre-1471 Muslim port and various 1662-1684 English components of the urban fabric—genuine as well as entirely spurious. The volume includes transcriptions of various relevant archival documents, as well as ancillary topical micro-studies in the Appendices. The book targets mainly an audience of historians, archaeologists, heritage specialists, and historic site interpreters, but will also reward a patient casual reader genuinely interested in the old fortified médina of Tangier.
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