The evaluation of the cultural inheritance of Islam in Spain has tended to be seen in political terms, and nowhere more so, of course, than in Granada. Robert Irwin makes the point in his book on the Alhambra [Profile Books. London 2005]: writings on the Islamic history of Spain have often been presented in ways which suit contemporary political and social needs, he says.

Celebrations of Moorish culture as ‘the most brilliant epoch in the history of Spain’ are, sometimes implicitly but always undeniably, at the same time a derogation of the Catholic culture that replaced it. Meanwhile, the opposing nationalistic and Catholic point of view was that ‘nothing really good could possibly have been done by infidels’.

It’s true: prominent writers such as Miguel de Unamuno (in El porvenir de Espana, Madrid 1912) or Ortega y Gasset argued that it was precisely Arab barbarianism – or at least fatalism – that had held Spain back from becoming a fully modern European nation.

On the other hand – and I’m following Robert Irwin still – there was a tendency among the liberal intelligentsia to take pride in the Moorish past and deplore the persecution of Muslims and Jews instituted by the Catholic authorities after 1492. Partisans for Moorish culture and the glories of the Alhambra tended also to be partisans for the Republic.

Lorca, of course, figured among this liberal intelligentsia. His fateful remarks about the splendours of Moorish Granada giving way to an empoverished and oppressed city in which ‘the worst bourgeoise in Spain’ currently held sway went into print in July 1936. A month later that Granada bourgeoisie – through its thuggish ‘black squadrons’ – took its revenge.