Mohamad Ballan (Assistant Professor, History Department, Stony Brook University)
“Andalusi Peregrinations and Scholarly Circulations: Migration, Mobility, and the Community of Letters in the Late Medieval Mediterranean World”
Migration is a crucial lens for better understanding the world of the late medieval western Mediterranean. The Castilian, Aragonese and Portuguese conquest of most of al-Andalus during the early thirteenth led to migration of thousands of Andalusi Muslims from provincial and urban centers across Iberia to various regions across the Mediterranean world. These Andalusi émigrés would reshape and redefine the political institutions, intellectual culture and social developments across the late medieval Islamic world, from Granada to Damascus. The emergence of new scholarly and political networks of Andalusi scholar-officials across the Mediterranean provides significant insight into the intertwined histories of the individuals, groups, institutions, and political entities active within the Western Mediterranean and beyond. This paper closely examines one particular case-study—the Banū l-Khaṭīb of Loja and Granada—to illustrate the importance of migration and mobility in the transformation of a family’s fortunes within the borderland context of Nasrid Granada. It focuses primarily on the historical and autobiographical writings of one member of this family: Lisān al-Dīn b. al-Khaṭīb (1313-1374), perhaps the most notable philosopher, chancellor and chief minister of Nasrid Granada during the fourteenth century. The paper seeks to illustrate the integration of Nasrid scholar-officials within the broader world of the Mediterranean—including Christian Iberia, Islamic North Africa, and the Near East—while also demonstrating how the borderland realities of late medieval Iberia directly impacted the writings and thought of these individuals.
Travis Bruce (Associate Professor, McGill University)
“Violence as Global Practice in the Early Medieval Western Mediterranean”
Scholars have produced a significant amount of research on the medieval Mediterranean in recent years, attracted in part by its unique interreligious context. Yet, even as academe has sought to diversify its ranks and research interests, our understanding of the Mediterranean continues to follow Eurocentric lines. For the eleventh century, emerging Italian ports such as Pisa and Genoa dominate the literature on Mediterranean history in a narrative wherein Christian ports always already control the sea. Moreover, even in examining Latin relations with the Islamic world, in giving those ports a more Mediterranean framework, the gaze is still positional and directional. What we often take as Mediterranean is, in fact, still Latinate.
The GMA paradigm has created an opening for scholars to challenge traditional and Eurocentric approaches. This does not mean that we must embrace an all-is-global perspective, but that we can also reconsider the chronological, spatial, and other deterministic frameworks that have restricted our research. With this paper, I challenge the assumption that violence involving Muslims and Christians was necessarily religious. Moreover, I propose that normative texts concerning maritime violence impede rather than illuminate our understanding of that violence, particularly in cases adjacent to religious rhetoric. I propose an analysis that understands violence as a global practice with local and situational specificities. This approach thus cuts across religious or cultural lines, while also inviting diachronic and transregional comparisons.
Albrecht Classen (University Distinguished Professor, German Studies Department, University of Arizona)
“German Knights, Pilgrims, Scientists, and Diplomats in Spain, Portugal, and Northern Africa during the Late Middle Ages”
In previous papers I have already discussed in various contexts the significant role played by German travelogue authors (Hieronymus Muenzer, Arnold von Harff) and poets (Oswald von Wolkenstein) in Iberia. To them we would have to add the highly influential polymath and geographer Martin Beheim who created the first globe in 1493. But already much earlier, German poets imagined some of their protagonists roaming the western Mediterranean and engaging in intense political relationships with the local rulers. In very specific ways, those individuals laid the foundation for global perspectives, as fragmentary as they certainly still were at that time. Most interesting proves to be the romance The Good Gerhart (ca. 1220) by the Austrian poet Rudolf von Ems who has his Cologne merchant roam the entire Mediterranean until he reaches a Moroccan harbor where he strikes a friendship with the local castellan and can liberate a group of English lords, a Norwegian princess, and her maids. Before Rudolf, Wolfram von Eschenbach (ca. 1205) projects the father of his protagonist Parzival, Gahmuret, as a mercenary soldier who enters the service of a mighty Eastern ruler. Later he crosses the Mediterranean and reaches the shores of Iberia, details being unclear. Other poets situate their romances in the eastern Mediterranean, but in general, for German medieval poets, it was very common to use that contact zone as the backdrop of their plots. As much as that was all fantasy, in the late Middle Ages, the concrete contacts between nobles from the Holy Roman Empire and the Iberian Peninsula gained in intensity, probably also because of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. This paper will develop a mental map of the world of the Mediterranean from a northern/German perspective, as unusual as that might be.
Sarah Ifft Decker (Assistant Professor, History Department, Rhodes College)
“Contracts as Weapons: Notarial Power and Jewish Agency in the Late Medieval Crown of Aragon”
Historians of the medieval Crown of Aragon, as well as elsewhere in the western Mediterranean, have benefited immeasurably from the rise of notarial culture: ordinary people’s growing dependence on the notaries, as legal professionals and public authorities, generated the creation of a massive volume of documentation that has allowed medieval historians to study a corpus of data unmatched in many modern contexts. Studies of premodern notarial culture have often focused on the social and economic benefits that the notaries brought to people much like themselves: men, and to a lesser extent women, of the Christian ruling majority, especially urban artisans and merchants. At the same time, historians working within and beyond Europe have also explored the power dynamics of notarial culture, as notaries interacted with women and with subordinate ethnic and religious groups. This paper draws on the paradigm of the Global Middle Ages to decenter the perspectives of the Christian notaries and their clients and instead explore the agency of the Jewish men and women who chose to go to Christian notaries to draw up contracts related to inheritance, marriage, and divorce—areas theoretically under the exclusive jurisdiction of Jewish communities. I argue that at least some of these Jews did so in order to wield the authority of the ruling majority’s legal institutions against both Christians and other Jews. I will also incorporate intersectional readings, exploring how marginalized members of the Jewish community—women, the poor—sought to use the notaries, and what challenges they faced.
Claire Gilbert (Associate Professor, Saint Louis University)
“Mediterranean Creativity: Early Modern Artists and Artisans between Spanish and Moroccan Courts”
Between 1593 and 1598, the Castilian court painter Blas de Prado was sent to Morocco at the request of its sultan, Aḥmad al-Manṣūr. Though fleeting references to this voyage date from seventeenth-century art histories, little is known about what Blas de Prado actually did while in Morocco. This presentation will present additional evidence about Blas de Prado’s stay in al-Manṣūr’s court and add to recent scholarship about this period in the painter’s life. I will argue that Prado’s journey to Morocco and his stay in the Sultan’s court should be considered as part of a longstanding Hispano-Moroccan diplomatic system which thrived on the personal exchange of letters, information, and objects. Blas de Prado’s activities in Morocco testify to the fact that Spain and Morocco not only exchanged diplomatic agents and luxury goods, but also artisans who could produce such goods and who brought with them written and embodied knowledge. This exchange of experts adds a new dimension to our understanding of the dynamics of early modern Mediterranean diplomacy. Rather than an exchange of objects through fixed ceremonial procedures, the Spanish king’s “lending” of a court painter to the Moroccan sultan–during a moment of tension between the two powers–is a window into the activity and creativity of the individuals who knit together the diplomatic system through their own mobility.
Miguel Gómez (Lecturer, University of Dayton)
“Christian Iberia in the Almohad Shadow: A Core-periphery Perspective on the Late Twelfth/Early Thirteenth-century Western Mediterranean”
The hundred or so years spanning the mid-twelfth to the mid-thirteenth century have rightly been seen as a decisive period in the political history of the Iberian Peninsula. The consolidation of the Crown of Aragón, the emergence of an independent Portugal, and the military conquests of the Kingdom of Castile in al-Andalus make the era decisive in the teleological and nationalistic histories of the modern nation-states of the Peninsula, and dovetail nicely with other traditional narratives that have envisioned the decisive development of other European states in the same time period. It was also an era in which “the contest that really mattered”, as Peter Linehan described it in his Partible Inheritance, was the contest for supremacy amongst the five Christian kingdoms of the Peninsula, and the pursuit of hegemony enjoyed by the Emperor Alfonso VII.
However, this same time period encompassed the rise and fall of the Almohad Empire in
the Maghreb. At its height, from approximately 1170-1212, it enjoyed considerable power and
reach, and established hegemonic power over a considerable stretch of the western
Mediterranean. Indeed, as the work of Pascal Buresi suggests, the Almohads seemed to
understand the regular treaties and truces they signed with the Iberian Christian realms as tacit
acceptance, by the Christians, of Almohad hegemony. What, then, does this period look like if
we recast it, not as a decisive period for the formation of future Spanish/Portuguese nationalisms, but instead as a period when the Christian kingdoms existed, much as they always had, in the shadow of a hegemonic Muslim-ruled state, a hegemony which they understood, often recognized, and sometimes resisted? Following the suggestion of Jean Dangler (in her recent Edging Towards Iberia), my paper seeks to reimagine the late twelfth and early thirteenth century from a core-periphery perspective. It seeks to recast the political history of the period, assuming that the Christian actors understood their diplomatic relationships with the Almohad Empire in the same manner that the Empire’s rulers did. Further, it will reframe the decisions by the rulers of the kingdoms of León and Navarra, frequently the most willing collaborators with the Almohads, not as aberrant or treacherous, but as pragmatic moves to use the hegemonic power of the Maghrebi rulers to their advantage. Finally, by reframing the period in a larger western Mediterranean political picture, well-known episodes of the era, like the battles of Alarcos (1195) or Las Navas de Tolosa (1212) look less like decisive moments in a tale of an emergent Spain, or parts of a larger clash of civilizations, and more like what they were—the predictable struggles of an empire in its attempts to control a peripheral frontier.
Edward Holt (Assistant Professor, History Department, Grambling State University)
“Digitizing Cordoba: Virtually Reconstructing Sites of Medieval Encounter”
Dotted across the landscape of medieval Cordoba, Spain are twelve churches linked to the 1236 Christian recovery of the territory in al-Andalus. Known collectively as the Fernandine Churches (Iglesias fernandinas), they memorialize the thirteenth-century Castilian monarch Fernando III and serve as part of the plan for the royal reorganization of the city. But what is the relationship between these churches and their namesake? This talk will investigate through a digital visualization of medieval Cordoba the ways in which these sacred spaces constructed a memory of the monarch. It will showcase a virtual reality world and digital storytelling using Trimble’s SketchUp Pro as a pragmatic process of creating geographically accurate, 3D medieval cityscapes that use digital layering of qualitative and quantitative data gathered from primary sources, maps and plans, and secondary studies. Reflecting the interreligious reality of the Mediterranean, these churches under investigation represent a variety of religious orders as well as historical traditions (including Visigothic and Islamic). These articulations of power legitimized royal authority, even following the death of the monarch, and reciprocally benefited the institutions through the connection to the crown and Fernando III. Ultimately, a virtual examination of the relationship of Fernando III with the Fernandine Churches of Cordoba will allow for a discussion of royal power beyond the figure of the king, as well as the hybridity found in this site of encounter.
Nausheen Hoosein (PhD Researcher and Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of York)
“La Giralda: The Almohad Minaret as a Site of Spolia”
Despite its brief tenure as caliphal capital, Madinat al-Zahra is perhaps the most emblematic palatial construction of tenth-century Umayyad Spain. However, following the collapse of Umayyad rule, Madinat al-Zahra was sacked and burned, a mere seventy-four years after its establishment. Nevertheless, its ruins provoked acute interest in Andalusi court style and for centuries after its demise, the palatial complex was plundered for its sumptuous marble fragments and reusable building materials.
Some 150 kilometers west of Madinat al-Zahra and almost two centuries after its demise, the Berber Almohads would designate Seville as their Iberian capital and construct the minaret tower, popularly known as La Giralda today. Despite the significant lapse in time and space, these two dynasties, the Umayyads (r. 756-1031) and the Almohads (r.1130-1269), and their respective constructions, Madinat al-Zahra and La Giralda, are connected materially and metaphorically through the reuse of marble from the former to the latter. The paper will seek to address the questions, utilizing a pan-Straits approach: why would the twelfth-century Almohads choose to loot and later transport relatively heavy Andalusi marble from the ruins of al-Zahra to their Sevillian sites? What meanings- triumphant, practical or rhetorical- can we uncover in the reuse of Umayyad capitals?
The Maghrib, the far western Islamic lands, has laid on the peripheries of Islamic art history and has suffered a double marginalization, receiving scant and uneven attention in western medieval art history (considered the ‘exotic other’) as well as in the Islamic art canon (considered the ‘peripheral outpost’). In the context of Spanish nationalist concerns and European colonialism, the Berber Almoravids and Almohads were deemed ‘fanatical’ in religion and ‘imperialist’ in political domination of al-Andalus. They were vilified for bringing on the end of the sumptuous cultural and artistic life in Spain and introducing instead a perceived religious dogmatism, a rigid and oppressive order which stood in stark opposition to the vibrant Andalusi society. However, recent studies by scholars such as Anderson, Balbale, and Rosser-Owen seek to counter the binary of ‘European’ Andalusis versus the ‘African’ invaders, placing the Berber dynasties squarely within the proper confines of the medieval Mediterranean and as important Islamic empires.
The Almohad minaret in Seville, as this paper argues, represents an example through which scholars of medieval Iberian and Islamic material culture can consider these factors. With this paper, I will extend the idea of spolia considering the context of medieval Iberia and contextualise La Giralda as a paradigmatic example of Almohad reuse of Andalusi spolia. What begins to emerge is an alternative way of understanding the minaret of Seville in which we may begin to undermine Berber provincialism and Andalusi exceptionalism.
Richard Ibarra (Postdoctoral Scholar and Teaching Fellow, History Department, USC)
“Iberian Administration from Madrid to Manila: The Case of Santiago de Vera in the Sixteenth Century”
University-trained bureaucrats, or letrados, have long been seen as central to royal pretentions and administration in the late-medieval and early modern Iberian world. Letrados shared a group identity, rooted in a belief that they brought order through their administration. This paper argues that many letrados attempted to mobilize a network of relatives and dependents who shared in that identity, in cooperation with some local elites and in opposition to others, in order to realize their vision of imperial order. Part of a larger project, this paper focuses on the main features of this identity and its extension and recreation through these familial networks, taking the letrado Dr. Santiago de Vera as a primary example. Over a career spanning much of the sixteenth century, Vera occupied a variety of offices ranging from civil and criminal judgeships to the presidency of audiencias. His appointments took him from Madrid to Mexico and Manila, where he sought beneficial marriages and appointments for his relatives. Some local elites threatened his position by revealing his ancestors’ Jewish past to inquisitors or reporting his activities as corruption to visitors. Nevertheless, his fellow letrados closed ranks and he spent the end of his life pleading for permission to retire. Approaching this case through the intersection of the Bodies/Performance and Mobility/Conversion research axes illuminates the saliant features of this letrado identity, how it was reproduced, and how it operated on the ground to facilitate imperial administration across the Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Pacific.
Samantha Kelly (Professor, History Department, Rutgers University)
“Reading Across Regions and Cultures: Challenges and Opportunities”
Drawing on the presenter’s own experience as a medieval Europeanist engaged in the study of Ethiopian-European relations, this lecture will discuss some of the logistical and interpretive challenges to approaching intercultural contacts from the vantage of both sides, as well as the different perspectives it can bring to our views of the past and of its relationship to the present.
Toby Yuen-Gen Liang (Associate Research Fellow, Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica)
“Drawing Blanks: Cartographic Conceptions of Northern Africa in the Motion of Bodies, Networks, and Knowledge from 1400-1500s”
Northern Africa is a component part of the Western Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages, the movements of peoples and objects constructed social and exchange networks that connected northern Africa and southern Europe. These ties linked southern Europe to a “nearest overseas,” a littoral that stretched further south into Saharan and Sahelian Africa. In these terms, lands and peoples of northern Africa exercised a vital “globalizing” role for the Western Mediterranean and southern Europe, in particular. Such a contextual framework begs the question: how did Europeans conceptualize the geographic space(s) of northern Africa? At first glance, the question seems simple; the existence of the modern term “North Africa” suggests a landmass the size of the continental United States has been categorized and flattened to become a defined and “known” region. This talk moves beyond the familiarizing by examining how the development of cartography during a transitional and expansionary period in the late Middle Ages constructed, imagined, and exhibited the space of northern Africa. This exploration opens up additional inquiry into European knowledge about the nearest overseas in the contexts of broader encounters with hitherto unknown worlds and peoples, emerging forms of visual representation, and processes of erasure, silence, and displacement. Through this discussion, I hope to connect to other interests that form the program of this symposium.
Karen Mathews (Associate Professor, Art History Department, University of Miami)
“Global Trade Networks and Travel Culture of Ceramics, 1000-1600”
Given their bulk, fragility, and humble materials, ceramics might make unlikely global objects. Yet ceramic production, consumption, and circulation united cultures from the Far East to the Mediterranean, crossing the Atlantic to the New World. Ceramics functioned within the framework of a “traveling culture” moving freely between east and west in the medieval and early modern periods. They were truly transcultural, cosmopolitan objects that demonstrated the interest of ceramists in engaging with and learning from other cultures to create artworks that reflect this open and innovative mindset. Connectivity between the various centers where ceramic techniques were perfected—China, the Near East, and western Europe—created an integrated market, defining varied and vibrant pathways through which people, materials, techniques, and ultimately finished wares traveled. Ceramics provided a visual vocabulary that disparate peoples could appreciate and understand, from the fineness and strength of porcelain, to the complex technique of lusterware developed in the Islamic world, and the extraordinary popularity of tin-glazed ceramics that gave birth to the maiolica industry in various European centers but particularly Italy and Spain. Ceramics performed extraordinary cultural work, then, as global objects. They connected people to things and to one another as they circulated internationally. They served as commodities that indexed both monetary and symbolic value. They were appreciated as souvenirs, mementoes of voyages and places visited across the globe. They were also assembled into collections that displayed the sophistication, mastery, and cultural knowledge of the individual or corporate collector in an expansive, multicultural, and connected world.
Nasser Meerkhan (Assistant Professor, Spanish & Portuguese, Near Eastern Studies Departments, UC Berkeley)
“Reading the Poetry of Andalusi Women in a Mediterranean Context”
The corpus of Arabic poetry written by some thirty-six Andalusi women (X – XIII centuries CE) shows how they sought, defended, asserted and celebrated their right of self-fulfillment. From concubines to princesses to financially-independent noblewomen, Andalusi women such as Wallada Bint Al-Mustakfi, Hafsa ar-Rakuniya, and Muhja Bint al-Taiyani resorted to poetry to mourn their lovers regardless of their political affiliations, to be as obscene in criticizing their rivals as their male counterparts were, to write homoerotic ghazal (love poetry), and finally, to remain unmarried if they so wished.
Critics working on Medieval European women writers tend to overlook the case of Al-Andalus, mainly because Andalusi women poets’ work and lifestyles keep challenging Eurocentric views of the Middle Ages. Rather, we must shift our gaze to the larger Mediterranean to understand why the cases of women such as Wallada and Hafsa were extraordinary, but not exceptional. When we take into account such factors as the high level of literacy among Andalusi women as early as the tenth century, Arabic literary tropes that encouraged poets to write scathing satires of one another across the Mediterranean, as well as Maliki inheritance laws – as Kamila Shamsi has recently pointed out – then we can clearly see that it was only a matter of time, not luck, before certain Andalusi women would achieve such literary prestige, influence and power as to ridicule with their verses no less than the supreme judge of Cordoba (in the case of Wallada).
Flávio Miranda (Researcher, Centro de Investigação Transdisciplinar Cultura Espaço e Memória, University of Porto)
“Markets, Institutions, and Trade in Portugal: A Method Proposal for a Global Middle Ages Approach from the Western Edge of the Mediterranean World”
The southwestern part of Iberia that would become the kingdom of Portugal had developed broad economic relations with the Dār al-Islam for hundreds of years. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Portuguese reshaped pre-existing Islamic markets and redirected commercial routes toward the Mediterranean and Atlantic. Ultimately, commercial shipping and navigation success would lead the Portuguese towards voyages of exploration that united the oceans in the 1500s.
This paper uses Portugal’s markets and overseas economy in the Middle Ages as a case study. The goal is to propose a methodology capable of tracking the origin of markets and institutions, their characteristics and norms, the development of trading patterns, and the influence of sociocultural elements from a comparative perspective beyond the Mediterranean and Europe. More than focusing on periodization, the idea is to discuss how societies influence the making of markets and their impact on institutions, rules, habits, and language.
This paper breaks from the historiographical understanding that posits late-medieval Iberians as pioneers of the First Global Age, minorizing mobility and permeability of previous centuries’ economies, societies, and culture. Although European overseas expansion accelerated change, multilateral and multilayered relationships between people from different parts of the world and socioreligious backgrounds started earlier than the sixteenth century. Medieval Euro-Asian cross-cultural trade is an excellent example of the circulation of people, goods, and ideas. It will be argued that local, regional, and ‘national’ markets, institutions, and trade contribute to comparative research for the Global Middle Ages. One that might identify continuities and change, singularities, influences, reasons for asymmetry, inequality, wealth, and growth.
Fabien Montcher (Associate Professor of History, Saint Louis University)
“On Medieval Mediterranean Ecologies and Early Modern Green Imperialisms”
The Mediterranean is often conceived as both an incubator for the circulation of plants, animals, and food stuffs as well as a colonial laboratory. Departing from a plant-humanities perspective, based on rhizomatic understandings of spaces and social relations, this paper reflects on the political history of Mediterranean and Iberian ecologies from the end of the fifteenth and during the sixteenth century. It explores the ways through which medieval Mediterranean ecologies, broadly defined as a set of interdependences between plants and human mobilities became entangled with early modern green imperialisms. Building on case studies related to the circulations, displacement, and transplantation of people and fruits between Mediterranean, Atlantic, Asian, and African cultivars, this paper rethinks the way the political history of the Iberian worlds has been conceived between medieval Mediterranean and early modern Atlantic divides.
Julia Perratore (Assistant Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, The Metropolitan Museum of Art)
“Displaying the Western Mediterranean: The Art Museum as a Site of Global Medieval Exploration”
The so-called “encyclopedic ”art museum, possessing objects made throughout the world over the course of millennia, offers an ideal setting for exploring the global history of art. The core curatorial strategies of selecting and juxtaposing objects for public display hold the potential to highlight relationships among historical peoples, as well as to signal artistic affinities through thematic comparison. Yet, such storehouses of the material past are organized departmentally, whether by chronology, geography, culture, or religion, a museological norm that often prevents the museum from reaching its full potential, while the encyclopedic museum’s Western origins means that Euro- and Christocentric narratives often prevail.
My paper responds to the challenges and rewards of presenting the arts of the medieval Western Mediterranean in such a setting, focusing on my home institution of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Met’s holdings of this material cross departmental boundaries, but in my own department (Medieval Art), interpretation of Mediterranean works is integrated with that of northern European objects, with the result that visitors leave unaware of the extent to which the art of the western Mediterranean resulted from multiple and varied faiths, traditions, technologies, and material sources.
In this paper, I propose to explore new, more expansive and inclusive approaches to the display and interpretation of western Mediterranean art. To begin, I will briefly reflect on the choices I made for my Fall 2021 exhibition at The Met Cloisters, Spain, 1000-1200: Art at the Frontiers of Faith, which sought to expand the public’s aware ness of medieval Iberia as a site of interfaith exchange. I will then turn to a developing project, the redesign of The Met’s later medieval galleries, to consider how foregrounding material such as the museum’s extensive holdings of late medieval Valencian lusterware ceramics can more effectively communicate exchange and collaboration and, in so doing, help to establish a global framework for understanding the Middle Ages.
David Peterson (Director del Área de Historia Medieval, University of Burgos)
“The Blood of the Amazighs. Anomalous Distributions of North-African Genetic Characteristics in Northwestern Iberia”
Over the last two decades, a series of studies have observed anomalous concentrations of north African blood types in north-western Iberia in proportions much higher than in parts of Iberia further south which are both much closer to North Africa and were integrated into the Andalusí polity for much longer. Despite such a puzzling distribution (which has emerged across different studies), a communication failure between geneticists and historians has meant that an early medieval explanation for the anomaly has never been seriously countenanced and as a result the vast majority of medievalists are unaware of a distribution which potentially could revolutionise our understanding of the effects on the region of the eighth-century Islamic invasion. Without assuming that the early medieval period is the only possible explanation for the anomaly, it has powerful arguments in its favour over other periods which have, rather disconcertingly, been suggested as more likely contexts by the geneticists. I suggest that the communication failure is systemic on two levels: the challenges that dog genuine interdisciplinarity in Iberian academia, despite the frequent rhetoric in favour of it; and an ingrained (and to a degree self-perpetuating) belief that early medieval north-African influence on north-western Iberia was necessarily brief and superficial. Similar problems have been noted elsewhere (Geary 2018), but this breakdown in communication seems particularly pertinent to the Spain-North Africa Project.
Michael Jay Sanders (PhD student, Fordham University)
“Forgotten Roads to Jerusalem, Zion, and al-Quds: Jerusalemite Discourse among Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Medieval Iberia”
The Iberian Peninsula and city of Jerusalem sit thousands of miles apart at opposite ends of the Mediterranean Sea, yet medieval minds often did not consider them so far apart. Like medieval Iberia, Jerusalem is often described as a land of three religions. Well-known traditions in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam make the city religiously significant for each of the Abrahamic faiths. But less discussed is the city’s political importance. Much scholarship frames Jerusalem only as a military target for crusaders from England, the Holy Roman Empire, and France. Yet Jerusalemite discourses occurred outside of synagogues, churches, and mosques in a variety of written and material sources that shaped political cultures. These discourses were not identical but reflected shared understandings of power and identity between groups often described in opposition to one another.
This paper proposes to examine Jerusalemite discourses in Iberia, for the peninsula provides an underexplored global perspective on Jerusalem from Christendom, Sepharad, and al-Andalus. Plans for an iter per Hispaniam, a Spanish crusade route to the Holy Land, appeared around the same time as Golden Age Hebrew poets extolled Jerusalem in verse and Judah Halevi attempted to establish a new religious community in the city. The Egyptian sultan Saladin, whose authority rested on recovering Jerusalem from the Franks, established diplomatic ties with the Almohads, and had a strong influence later on the Nasrids. Jerusalemite discourses continued well into the modern era, as Conversos presented crusade plans and conquistadors and Indigenous staged plays of the Siege of Rhodes and First Crusade in colonial Mexico.
These examples and more show how recent work by scholars such as David A. Wacks, Chad Leahy and Ken Tully, as well as Andrew Devereux fit into a longue durée of Jerusalemite discourses within Iberia. They fit into the Global Middle Ages paradigm as well by putting Christian, Jewish, and Islamic perspectives in communication, rather than privileging one voice over another. They also sit along the Conversion/Mobility Axe of CEGS by breaking geographical and temporal boundaries. In short, this paper demonstrates Jerusalem was not as far from Iberia as modern and medieval maps may suggest.
Ned Schoolman (Associate Professor, University of Nevada at Reno)
“Environmental History as Global History? Methodological Insights from Premodern Case Studies”
This presentation explores the complex relationships and intersections between environmental history and global history within the temporal confines of the Middle Ages. First, it provides a brief historiography of “global” approaches to environmental history and the various methodologies used to connect the history of past societies through shared interactions with paleoclimate and paleoenvironmental change. Second, it offers two case studies from medieval Italy, of the cities of Rieti and Lucca and their hinterlands, that illustrate how local and regional environmental histories – especially those built using historical, archaeological, and palaeoecological records together – fit within global narratives. These cases demonstrate different outcomes in how local communities managed their landscapes in the face of political, economic, and climatic pressures, in some instances showing resilience, while in others local retrenchment. Finally, it concludes on how the various scales of environmental history in the premodern world should intuitively be in dialog with some of the concepts and practices of global history.
Larry Simon (Associate Professor, Western Michigan University)
“Mallorca, Mediterranean Slavery, and Global History”
Mallorca was the commercial crossroads of the Western Mediterranean and whether under Christian or Muslim control was coveted by Andalusis, Catalans, Genoese, Pisans, Provençals, Ifriqiyans, and Maghribis, and played a significant role in the trade of all of these various peoples; Mallorcans were well known in the Low Countries and throughout the eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea, and were among the earliest merchants to establish themselves in the Canaries. Yet scholars rarely acknowledge Mallorca’s economic importance and when they do still treat this island-kingdom as a cultural, in modern times tourist, backwater. Abraham Cresques and a large number of other Mallorcan cartographers might suggest otherwise, as indeed might followers of the admittedly-idiosyncratic Ramon Llull at Barcelona, Genoa, and Paris. Mallorca has played a significant role in a variety of pan-Mediterranean and indeed global phenomena—piracy, slavery, creation of a Sephardi diaspora, centuries-long persecution of Conversos. I propose (1) to sketch the bourgeoning, though almost exclusively non-English language, bibliography on all aspects of Mallorcan slavery and the slave trade in the High and Late Middle Ages; but most especially (2) to explore from unpublished archival material the question of whether Mallorcan slavery in the thirteenth century was predominantly domestic and personal, as most historians of the Mediterranean believe all medieval slavery to have been, or, rather, was to a very great degree also collective and agricultural. Medieval historians of slavery are often content to document the existence of chattel slavery, and to tabulate the gender and ethnicity of buyers, sellers, and slaves without asking harder questions concerning the living and working conditions of medieval slaves and their importance to the medieval economy. Mallorca may be anomalous, or perhaps there is further work to be done on slavery in Valencia, Sicily, Cyprus, and numerous other places, but a substantial body of evidence demonstrates Mallorcan slavery’s affinity to conceptions of slavery perhaps more often associated with Roman and colonial American than with medieval slavery. My point of departure will be the inquest into the case of the master-murdering slave ‘Abd Allah in the early fourteenth century.