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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics


Dr Elizabeth Drayson

Photo of Elizabeth Drayson
Emeritus Fellow in Spanish, Murray Edwards College
Spanish & Portuguese
Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages & Linguistics
Contact details: 
Telephone number: 
+44 (0)1223 762 000 (Murray Edwards)

Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages
Raised Faculty Building
University of Cambridge
Sidgwick Avenue
United Kingdom



Elizabeth Drayson specialises in medieval and early modern Spanish literature and cultural history, and has a particular interest in the Arabic, Jewish, and Christian cultures of medieval and Golden Age Spain, as well as in the relationship between medieval literature, art and film. Her publications include the first translation and edition of Juan Ruiz's Libro de buen amor to appear in England (Everyman edition), as well as essays and articles on the Libro de buen amor, Berceo and the Poema de mio Çid. She is the author of The King and the Whore: King Roderick and La Cava, The New Middle Ages series, (London and New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007) which charts the reception of the legend of Roderick, last Visigothic king of Spain. Elizabeth has published several articles on the legend in medieval and early modern chronicles and early art, as well as giving numerous conference papers on the subject. Her monograph, The Lead Books of Granada, Early Modern History series (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013, paperback, 2016) evaluates the cultural status and importance of the polyvalent, ambiguous artefacts known as the lead books, which were discovered on a hillside in late sixteenth-century Granada and embody many of the dualities and paradoxes inherent in the racial and religious dilemmas of Early Modern Spain.

Her book The Moor’s Last Stand: how seven centuries of Muslim rule in Spain came to an end (London: Profile Books, 2017) charts the life and times of Boabdil, last Muslim king of Granada, and has been reviewed in The Times, Sunday Times and The Guardian. It was one of the Times and Sunday Times Best History books of 2017, and appeared in paperback, and also in Spanish translation, in 2018.

Elizabeth’s latest book, Lost Paradise: the story of Granada (London: Head of Zeus, 2021) is a history of the city of Granada from prehistoric times to the present.

In 2023 she edited the publication Europe’s Islamic Legacy: 1900 to the present: proceedings of the online conference hosted by the University of Cambridge on 20 October 2020 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2023).

She is currently writing Crucible of Light: Islam and Europe in War and Peace 711AD to the present, a book about the nature of European identity which charts the complex relationships between Christians and Muslims in Europe from earliest times and reveals the continent to be a hybrid place formed of both Christian and Islamic heritages. Crucible of Light will be published by Picador in 2025.


Research interests: 
  • History of Muslims and Christians in Europe
  • Medieval and early modern Spanish culture in visual art and film


Recent research projects: 

Newton Trust CTO research leave award to research and write the story of Boabdil, last Muslim sultan of Granada.


Published works: 

Selected publications:

Lost Paradise: the story of Granada (London: Head of Zeus, 2021). Reviewed in Daily Mail Online at Cambridge Academic delves into the history of Granada in a fascinating new tome | Daily Mail Online and the TLS at Granada as a place of secrets, illusions and contradictions | The TLS (

The Moor’s Last Stand: how seven centuries of Muslim rule in Spain came to an end (London: Profile Books, 2017, paperback, 2018). Reviews in The Times, Sunday Times and The Guardian.

The Lead Books of Granada, Early Modern History: Society and Culture series (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013).

The King and the Whore: King Roderick and La Cava, The New Middle Ages series (New York and Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007). Shortlisted for the La Corónica book prize 2008.

The Book of Good Love, Juan Ruiz, Archpriest of Hita, new English translation and critical introduction, notes and bibliography, Everyman Paperbacks, (London: Orion, 1999).

Selected recent articles and essays:

‘Trickery and truth: Spain’s Achilles heel in the time of Cervantes’ in Cervantes – Shakespeare 1616 – 2016: Contexto. Influencia. Relación,eds. José Manuel González, José María Ferri and María del Carmen Irles (Kassel: Ediciones Reichenberger, 2017), pp. 263 – 278. 

‘“Como pella a las dueñas, tomelo quien podiere”: anacronismo y representación en las adaptaciones cinematográficas del Libro de buen amor dirigidas por Tomás Aznar y Jaime Bayarri’, Juan Ruiz, Arcipreste de Hita, y el “Libro de buen amor”: congreso homenaje a Alberto Blecua (Alcalá la Real: Ayuntamiento, 2014), pp. 63-72.

‘Reinventing the legend of King Roderick: Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda’s Egilona’, Romance Studies, Vol. 32 No. 4, November 2014, pp. 259–68.

‘Possible sources for the Introduction to Berceo’s Milagros de nuestraSeñora’, repr. in Classical and Medieval Literary Criticism, Vol. ‘Berceo’,(Columbia, South Carolina: Layman Poupard Publishing).

‘From Text to Image and Film: two visual recreations of Lazarillo de Tormes by Francisco Goya and Fernando Fernán Gómez’ in Literature and Interarts: Critical essays, ed. Inmaculada Medina Barco (Universidad de la Rioja, 2013), pp. 145 – 162.

‘Del texto medieval a la gran pantalla: El Cid entre historia y leyenda’,Fábula: Revista literaria de la Universidad de la Rioja, 31, Otoño-Invierno 2011, pp. 58-62.

‘The Latin commentary tradition and Stanza 70 of the Libro de buen amor: notes on a possible source’, La Corónica, Vol. 38.2, Spring 2010, pp. 27 – 41.