Theme: WHEN EAST AND WEST MEET
The history of the contacts between the Western (Christian) and Eastern (Muslim) worlds is usually studied through the lens of the "clash of civilisations" pattern. If those two worlds have indeed very often opposed each other, war and misunderstanding are but one — minor — aspect, that underlies the history of their relations. This course aims to introduce students to the complexity of this relation between Muslim and Christian worlds during the premodern period, and to nuance this common narrative of the clash of civilisations. It intends to present the most complete picture possible of the different aspects and stakes involved in this relation, as well as of the diverse means of interaction displayed. Though it will do so based primarily on the Muslim perspective, the course will provide the comparative tools necessary to understand both sides.
Concretely, the course will focus on the periods of the Crusades and the Mongols’ invasions (12th-15th cent.). If both events were inaugurated through wars and conquests, the Islamic world had soon to learn to coexist with the West — especially since the East witnessed then a great increase of mobility of western soldiers, rulers, merchants, pilgrims, missionaries, ambassadors, travellers and settlers. Each category of people will produce a different reaction and a different narrative. During the course, students will be provided with both the theoretical and practical frameworks to understand the different kind of interactions. The notion of the "Other" (perception, construction and dealing with) is central to the class. Students will have access to primary sources and first-hand accounts that illustrated the state of minds of both worlds.
The course is manifold, since it will deal with political (state formation and recognition, war, diplomacy), economic (i.e., trade), social (i.e., social structure and changes), legal (i.e., jihad, treaties, immunities) as well as cultural history (i.e., cultural exchanges, ceremonial).