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Unit information: From the Birth of Islam to the Crusades (c.600-1291) in 2018/19

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Unit name From the Birth of Islam to the Crusades (c.600-1291)
Unit code HIST20101
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Bessard
Open unit status Not open



HIST23008 Special Field Project

School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit investigates the historical and socio-political foundation of the Muslim world. The course examines the world in which Islam emerged, to unveil the Late Antique legacies, in which Islam took shape. It will investigate the Arab-Muslim conquests and the Islamisation of Spain, North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. It looks at the major historical and socio-cultural developments of the Muslim world from the rise of an empire in 661 to the fragmentation of the Islamic world when competing rulers and military strongmen (sultans and emirs) fought over the legacy of early caliphs. From the eleventh century, the unit will explore the establishment of Crusader States in the Levant. We will investigate how the nature of religious and political authority changed between 700 and 1291, as well as how new regional emirs and sultans legitimised their power. At the end of the course, students should be able to demonstrate an understanding of the narrative of Islamic history up to 1291 and have knowledge of the main historiographical debates on the formation of the Islamicate world.

Intended learning outcomes

Successful students will be able to:

1.Demonstrate a strong and detailed understanding of the narrative of Islamic history up to 1291;

2.Demonstrate a critical knowledge of the key aspects of religious and intellectual developments of the period;

3.Discuss and evaluate the key historiographical debates surrounding the study of Islamic history in this period

4.Understand and interpret primary sources and select pertinent evidence in order to illustrate specific and more general historical points

5.Present their research and judgements in written forms and styles appropriate to the discipline and to level I

Teaching details

1 x two-hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

1 x 2 hour exam (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

A. Silverstein, Islamic History. A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2010)

P. Brown, The World of Late Antiquity (London, 1971), especially chapters 13-16

F. Donner, The Early Islamic Conquests (Princeton, 1981), pp. 251-71; ‘The Formation of the Islamic State’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 86 (1986), pp. 283-296

J. Lassner, The Shaping of ‘Abbasid Rule (Princeton, 1980)

M. Q. Zaman, ‘The Caliphs, the ‘ulama’ and the law: defining the role and function of the caliph in the early ‘Abbasid Period’, Islamic Law and Society 4 (1997), pp. 1-36

G. Makdisi, ‘Sunni Revival’, in D. S. Richards (ed.), Islamic Civilisation 950-1150 (Oxford, 1973), pp. 155-168.