The Caliphates

Course Description: 

This course is a survey of the emergence and development of the caliphates as imperial systems in the context of late antique and later political, social, religious and economic conditions, and in the regions stretching from Iran to Spain, albeit with special emphasis on the eastern Mediterranean region. It will start with prefatory considerations, to ask a number of questions regarding continuity and discontinuity. Taking that lead and pursuing issues of periodisation, the course will take up the late antique Roman and Sasanian context, the Arab conquests, the institutions, social and economic conditions, networks and ideologies of imperial rule from Damascus and Baghdad. It will address imperial religion and imperial aesthetic and other cultural styles, and their institutions and social settings. The course will treat the relationship between forms of dissidence, regional fragmentation, parallel and rival Caliphates, and the once imperial centre, and the emergence of Seljuq rule as a prelude to the rise of the Ottomans.
All students taking this course without earlier exposure to this topic are asked to prepare themselves with acquiring the basic chronological, geographical and topical parameters of the subject. They can do so by reading one of shorter books listed below (for instance: Berkey, Lewis, Salibi). All names and technical terms, when unfamiliar, should be looked up in the general bibliography below and beyond. All students are expected to read and consider all the assigned readings before every session.
All books listed in the syllabus below are held on the Reserve Shelf in the CEU library.

Learning Outcomes: 

The course is intended to impart a certain competence in a field of  history often neglected but of decisive importance for understanding and interpreting the histories of the Mediterranean region from Late Antiquity until today. It will do so by offering an introductory survey to the uninitiated, and offering a firmer grounding in the history and its various questions for those already initiated. It is intended to open comparative horizons, enable students to deal with both the historical material and the historiographic issues that arise, and to add more general competences relating to issues of conceptualising, categorising and periodising a specific sequence of histories in their geographical and other contexts. The course is also intended in equal measure to impart a basic grasp of questions relating to historiographic questions arising from the topic and of the sources for the histories covered.



There will be two forms of assessment for this course, one for those registered for the class component only, and another for those registered for both the class and the seminar components.

The class component will be assessed by 1) a take-home examination at the end of term and on a date to be agreed with the students, 2) a response to the readings of one of the sessions, to include the assigned readings and a selection from the recommended further readings identified in consultation with the instructor, and 3) evidence of continuous and engaged work on the material, which will be identified from class participation and from the examination. The seminar component will be assessed by 1) an end of term paper on a topic agreed with the instructor and involving work with primary sources available in translation, and 2) seminar presentations and discussions.