Christendom and Islam in the Middle Ages (HISM408)

Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF LevelM
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module explores Christian attitudes towards the Islamic world from the time of Muhammad to the Late Middle Ages. Particular attention will be paid to Christian reactions to the rise of Islam; the origins and development of the crusading movement in western Europe; the emergence of a missionary strategy during the thirteenth century; contemporary literary perceptions of Muslims; and the enduring permeability of the frontier with Islam, which was crossed with regularity by Christian mercenaries and merchants, among others. Taking Spain and Sicily as case-studies, the module will also analyse diverse forms of social and cultural interaction between Christian and Muslim communities during the Middle Ages, highlighting, among other things, the transfer of ideas and technology from the Muslim world to the Christian West. The long-term aim of the module is to cultivate a perceptive and open-minded attitude towards a complex religious, social and cultural phenomenon, in which issues of relevance to today’s world are brought to light.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and advanced understanding of Christian attitudes towards Islam during the Middle Ages, within a wide range of political, social and cultural contexts;
  • 2. demonstrate a critical awareness of current scholarly debates relating to Christian-Muslim relations.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Students should demonstrate the ability to analyse and synthesise widely different types of historical material and evidence.
  • 4. They should be able to identify and understand the nature of original sources.
  • 5. They should have a critical understanding of key historical concepts and debates.
  • 6. Students should be able to research for themselves and present independent accounts and interpretations of different historical issues.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Capacity for independent critical study and thought.
  • 8. The ability to apply key bibliographical skills (including the use of on-line finding aids).
  • 9. The ability to construct and defend a sustained argument, both in written form and orally, using primary and secondary materials.
  • 10. Students should have the capacity to work as an individual and to work with a tutor and peers in an independent, constructive and responsive way (e.g. lead a group discussion or task).

Syllabus plan

1 The Rise of Islam: Origins and Expansion
2 The People of the Book: Christians and Jews under Muslim Rule
3 Islamic Expansion: the Economic Context
4 Crossing Frontiers 
5 The Crusades (I): Origins and Development
6 The Crusades (II): Broadening Horizons
7 'Visions of Islam' in the Age of the Crusades: Text, Image and Stone
8 'Those that Remain':Muslims under Christian Rule in Iberia, Sicily and the Holy Land
9 The Missionary Impulse
10 The Transfer of Ideas
11 Islam and the West in the Middle Ages: a concluding forum

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
SLT22Weekly 2 hour seminars
GIS278Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
at least one seminar presentation of between 10 and 20 minutes in length.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1625000 words
Essay 2: based on original sources383000 wordsThe latter will be substantially based on primary sources.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

N Daniel, Islam and the West: The making of an image [Edinburgh UP, 1960]
–– The Arabs and Mediaeval Europe [Longman, 1975]
R Fletcher, Moorish Spain [Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1992]
–– The Cross and the Crescent: Christianity and Islam from Muhammad to the Reformation [Allen Lane, 2003]
M Gervers and R J Bikhazi (eds), Conversion and Continuity: Indigenous Christian communities in Islamic Lands, eighth to eighteenth centuries [Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1990]
C Hillenbrand, The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives [Edinburgh UP, 1999]
H Kennedy, Muslim Spain and Portugal: A political history of al-Andalus [Longman, 1996]
–– The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates: The Islamic Near East from the sixth to the eleventh century [2nd edn, Longman, 2004]¬†
B Lewis, The Arabs in History [6th edn, Oxford UP, 1993]
T Madden (ed), The Crusades [Blackwell, 2002]
J Muldoon, Popes, Lawyers and Infidels: The Church and the non-Christian world 1250-1550 [Liverpool UP, 1979]
J Phillips and M Hoch (eds), The Second Crusade: Scope and Consequences [Manchester UP, 2001]
J Powell (ed), Muslims under Latin Rule, 1100-1300 [Princeton UP, 1990]
J Riley-Smith, The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades [Oxford UP, 1995]
–– The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading [Cambridge UP, 1996]
–– and L Riley-Smith, The Crusades: Idea and Reality, 1095-1274 [Arnold, 1981]
F Robinson (ed), The Cambridge Illustrated History of Islam [Cambridge UP, 1996]
R W Southern, Western Views of Islam in the Middle Ages [Harvard UP, 1962] 
D H Strickland, Saracens, Demons and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art [Princeton UP, 2003]
J V Tolan, Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination [Columbia UP, 2002]

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