Europe and the Islamic World

Europe and the Islamic World: A History

John Tolan
Gilles Veinstein
Henry Laurens
Translated by Jane Marie Todd
With a Foreword by John L. Esposito
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 528
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  • Book Info
    Europe and the Islamic World
    Book Description:

    Europe and the Islamic Worldsheds much-needed light on the shared roots of Islamic and Western cultures and on the richness of their inextricably intertwined histories, refuting once and for all the misguided notion of a "clash of civilizations" between the Muslim world and Europe. In this landmark book, three eminent historians bring to life the complex and tumultuous relations between Genoans and Tunisians, Alexandrians and the people of Constantinople, Catalans and Maghrebis--the myriad groups and individuals whose stories reflect the common cultural, intellectual, and religious heritage of Europe and Islam.

    Since the seventh century, when the armies of Constantinople and Medina fought for control of Syria and Palestine, there has been ongoing contact between the Muslim world and the West. This sweeping history vividly recounts the wars and the crusades, the alliances and diplomacy, commerce and the slave trade, technology transfers, and the intellectual and artistic exchanges. Here readers are given an unparalleled introduction to key periods and events, including the Muslim conquests, the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the commercial revolution of the medieval Mediterranean, the intellectual and cultural achievements of Muslim Spain, the crusades and Spanish reconquest, the rise of the Ottomans and their conquest of a third of Europe, European colonization and decolonization, and the challenges and promise of this entwined legacy today.

    As provocative as it is groundbreaking, this book describes this shared history in all its richness and diversity, revealing how ongoing encounters between Europe and Islam have profoundly shaped both.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4475-3
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    John L. Esposito

    Contemporary politics and the media have too often produced a narrative of conflicting paradigms that sees the world and the history of relations between the West and Islam in terms of a clash of civilizations, Orientalism versus Occidentalism, fourteen centuries of jihad versus Crusades and colonialism, Islamophobia and anti-Westernism. Lost in the cultural crossfire are the religious, historical, political, and cultural diversity rather than monolithic nature of the West and the Muslim world and positive interactions and exchanges and cross-fertilization.

    Despite common historical and theological roots and beliefs, Muslim-Christian relations have often been overshadowed by political and economic as well...

  4. General Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    As everyone must know, the relations between Europe and the Muslim world are very much in the news: European diplomacy with Iran or within the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Muslim immigration to European countries; the position of European oil companies in Arab economies; the economic trade agreements between the European Union (EU) and the countries of the Maghreb; Turkey’s negotiations to join the EU; European reactions to the democratic revolutions sweeping the Arab world. All these pressing matters and many others as well, which could lead to cooperation, concord, or conflict, will remain key issues for European and Muslim...

  5. PART I: Saracens and Ifranj:: Rivalries, Emulation, and Convergences
    • CHAPTER 1 The Geographers’ World: From Arabia Felix to the Balad al-Ifranj (Land of the Franks)
      (pp. 11-26)

      What notion did the men and women of the Middle Ages have of the world they lived in? What were their perceptions of the boundaries—geographical, religious, cultural, and so on—that separated what we moderns call the Islamic world from Europe? Clearly, the responses are many, and the perspective changes with one’s point of view: from a Northumbrian monastery in the eighth century, from Baghdad in the tenth century, from the unstable border regions of Anatolia in the eleventh century, from a Genoese ship sailing off the coast of Egypt in the thirteenth century, from the Maghreb in the...

    • CHAPTER 2 Conquest and Its Justifications: Jihad, Crusade, Reconquista
      (pp. 27-48)

      Throughout the Middle Ages and well beyond, religion, whether Christian or Muslim, inspired or justified military conquests. Muslims waged jihad against the Christian infidel,Rūm,or theIfranj: Christians called for Crusade against Saracens and for the reconquest of territories fallen to the infidels. But both sides also used the logic and vocabulary of holy war against internal enemies, claiming that victory came from God: for example, in the struggle of the “Orthodox” against “heretics” or “schismatics”; between the Sunni Seljuks and the Fatimid Shiites; between the Byzantines and the Normans; or between the papacy and the Hohenstaufen. Although the...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Social Inferiority of Religious Minorities: Dhimmis and Mudejars
      (pp. 49-69)

      Chronicles of holy war celebrated the feats of arms against the infidels and minimized those against coreligionists, except in cases where the latter were portrayed as heterodox. But once the conquest was achieved, the new subjects had to be integrated into the political and social order. These religious “minorities,” who in actuality were often in the numerical majority immediately after the conquest, were usually granted a protected but subordinate place in society. Theologians and jurists justified their subordination, defining their role with reference to the founding texts (Qur’an, Hadith, Bible, or Roman law). From Barcelona to Baghdad, large minorities lived...

    • CHAPTER 4 In Search of Egyptian Gold: Traders in the Mediterranean
      (pp. 70-86)

      The history of diplomatic, military, and cultural relations in the Mediterranean has always been tied to that of commerce. The Arab world was located on the major axes of world trade, linked to India, China, Byzantium, Africa, and Europe. In the tenth century, Latin Europe was only a minor partner in these exchanges, but over the following centuries, commercial relations developed and contributed to an economic boom for both civilizations, turning the Mediterranean region into a single economic unit.

      At the time of Muhammad’s death in 632, Constantinople was the only large city in Europe.¹ As the cultural, political, and...

    • CHAPTER 5 On the Shoulders of Giants: Transmission and Exchange of Knowledge
      (pp. 87-108)

      Trade is inseparable from political, diplomatic, and military relations. The mingling of people and goods traveling back and forth across the Mediterranean was accompanied by a mingling of ideas, technologies, and texts—of cultures, in short. All the various players adopted the technologies, institutions, and tools of the merchants and sailors—whether banking instruments, contracts,funduqs, compasses, or portulans—modified them to fit their own needs and culture, and perfected them when necessary.

      Exchanges of ideas and technologies in the Mediterranean basin were not limited to commerce and navigation. They occurred in all areas: agricultural, hydraulic, architectural, and military technologies;...

  6. PART II: The Great turk and Europe
    • Introduction to Part II: Continuity and Change in Geopolitics
      (pp. 111-119)

      Historians specializing in regions outside Europe, and especially in the Islamic world, have plenty of reasons to criticize the traditional periodization of European history when it is applied to their objects of studies. The label “modern period,” which designates the eras from the Renaissance to the French Revolution, is the most problematic. Depending on the country, it begins in the fifteenth or sixteenth century and ends in the late eighteenth. The modern period can therefore be distinguished both from the Middle Ages and from the so-called contemporary period, the nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. What meaning can that designation have outside...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Ottoman Conquest in Europe
      (pp. 120-148)

      During the early Middle Ages, eastern Europe was unaffected by the Muslim expansion, though that part of the continent, an extension of the Eurasian steppe, did not remain completely untouched by the presence of Turkic peoples (whether direct ancestors of the Ottomans or not) or by the Muslim presence. The European parts of the Byzantine Empire had to deal with several of these invaders of the steppe, such as the Pechenegs, the Cumans, and the Uzes, all of whom the Byzantine literati assimilated to the Scythians of antiquity. Byzantium clashed with these peoples or used them against other “barbarians.” Ultimately,...

    • CHAPTER 7 Ottoman Europe: An Ancient Fracture
      (pp. 149-162)

      Throughout much of the modern age, a large part of Europe—a quarter or a third of the continent—was under the political domination of Islam. That fracture within the continent was not new. To a large extent, Ottoman Europe simply covered thepars orientalisof the continent, the religious and cultural sphere of influence of Constantinople, in opposition to that of Rome. Hence the Ottoman conquest ultimately followed a much more ancient cleavage, though, for some 150 years, between 1541 and the very end of the seventeenth century, it also crossed over that line, especially in Hungary.

      The Ottoman...

    • CHAPTER 8 Antagonistic Figures
      (pp. 163-185)

      The Christians, first those of the East, then those of the West, had rejected Islam from its first appearance and continued to do so throughout the Middle Ages. Initially, they even denied it the status of religion, seeing it only as a heresy or a form of paganism or idolatry. When they had to consider Islam a religion, they could only denounce it, given that Christianity alone was true. In addition to being false, Islam was also a mortal danger: as a universal religion, it claimed to be superior to Christianity and intended to take its place. It was thus...

    • CHAPTER 9 The Islamic-Christian Border in Europe
      (pp. 186-205)

      Between Ottoman Europe and that other Europe, which saw itself as the only true one (Europe identified itself with Christendom), a line was drawn. It shifted with the Turks’ advance, just as, at the end of the modern period, it would follow their first retreats. When the Ottoman Empire had reached its maximum extension, that line (or rather, that buffer zone) cut diagonally across the European continent, from roughly the Caspian Sea to the Adriatic. To the east, it ran through the northern steppes of the Black Sea, moving northwest of that sea toward central Europe, following the southern edges...

    • CHAPTER 10 Breaches in the Conflict
      (pp. 206-254)

      The ideologies were antagonistic and irreconcilable on both sides. Had it been only the voice of ideology that had spoken during the modern period, the two camps would have remained at a standoff, each on its own side of the border. They would have fallen back into their respective certainties, and the relations between the two would have consisted solely of conflict. Even today, that is how relations between the Turks and Europe are frequently represented. But a study of the facts shows that many dissonant voices could be heard during that time. For both parties or for only one...

  7. PART III: Europe and the Muslim World in the Contemporary Period
    • Introduction to Part III
      (pp. 257-258)

      Europe and the Islamic world have a long, shared past. The very concepts “Europe” and “Islamic world” assumed meaning only in their opposition to each other. The conquests during the first Muslim centuries put an end to the Mediterranean unity inherited from the Roman Empire, creating a new geographical reality, and the first occurrence of the term “Europe” to name that reality appeared in reference to the Battle of Poitiers in 732. Of course, Europe had other borders, such as those with paganism, then with Orthodoxy, where the front lines of conversion, running from the Balkans to the Baltic, converged....

    • CHAPTER 11 The Eighteenth Century as Turning Point
      (pp. 259-276)

      The notion of “Europe” clearly existed in the eighteenth century. The term designated a cultural space and a political system, a balance of powers. Following on the terrible cycle of religious wars that ended with the Thirty Years’ War, the European crisis of conscience restored the idea of a cultural unity transcending the cleavages among states, each with a single and official religion. The publishing industry, supplanting handwritten letters, created a space for books and newspapers: this was the European space proper, though it expanded to North and South America and to Europe’s African and Asian trading posts. The printed...

    • CHAPTER 12 Civilization or Conquest?
      (pp. 277-294)

      In Egypt, Muhammad Ali, leader of the Albanian contingent, took power in 1805, driving out the Ottoman governor with the support of the notables of Cairo. The Porte was obliged to recognize that coup d’état. The new governor, whom the Europeans called a “viceroy,” established his legitimacy in 1807 by driving out the English. He gradually reestablished order and definitively eliminated the Mamluks in 1811. In his heart of hearts, he was the founder of an Islamic empire, and his first actions moved in that direction: he established a state monopoly on land and imposed strict control over economic transactions....

    • CHAPTER 13 The Age of Reform
      (pp. 295-321)

      Since the Enlightenment, it had been well understood that, in order to survive, the Muslim state had to be reformed. That was the condition for its remaining within the framework of the European balance of powers, which had become global via the Indian route. Although the need for reforms was a European imperative, given the universalization of its norms, it also corresponded to the needs of the societies being transformed. We therefore need to discern, in the analysis of the processes under way, what was imposed collectively and forcibly by the great powers, what evolved in synchronism between Europe and...

    • CHAPTER 14 The Age of Empire
      (pp. 322-337)

      Even as the term “imperialist” came into current use in European political language, the progress of direct European rule in Islamic countries was coming to an end. The 1880s were devoted to the conquest and partitioning of sub-Saharan Africa. European competition had shifted geographically; new actors existed, Belgium and Germany in particular, but Russia was notably absent. It was completing the consolidation of its hold on central Asia. The division of Africa was formalized by the Conference of Berlin in 1884 and by a series of border-defining accords concluded in the following years.

      France had the most at stake in...

    • CHAPTER 15 The First Blows to European Domination
      (pp. 338-359)

      In the 1890s, a portion of Ottoman society shifted toward a revolutionary outlook, but that faction consisted for the most part of nationalist Christian militants. In traditional Islamic political thought, the idea of revolution was considered a negative, since it shattered the unity of the community (or of society). The reformists of the years 1870–1880 had instead adopted a critique of the existing political system, defined as “despotic,” and had sought to Islamize European liberal constitutional discourse. The sultan agreed to the Ottoman constitution of 1876, even though it was the result of a coup d’état, and he retained...

    • CHAPTER 16 The Great War and the Beginning of Emancipation
      (pp. 360-386)

      European rivalries in the Muslim world were one of the aggravating factors in the march toward war, but in 1914 all the conflicts appeared to be resolved. Imperial Germany, not possessing colonies in that vast region of the world, had largely refrained from intervening in the Balkan Wars. It returned to its posture as the friend of Islam and the protector of the Ottoman Empire, giving rise, among the Franco-British, to the specter of a pan-Islamism of Germanic inspiration.

      The assassination in Sarajevo of Archduke Francis Ferdinand was a remote consequence of the Treaty of Berlin, which placed Bosnia-Herzegovina under...

    • CHAPTER 17 Contemporary Issues
      (pp. 387-404)

      The French and British sought to draw Turkey into their camp by providing it with major benefits. France completely ceded thesanjakof Alexandretta, part of its mandate in the Levant, leading to lasting resentment among the Syrians. The German-Soviet Nonaggression Pact changed the situation. Moscow called on the Ankara regime to remain neutral. It complied, even after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. In 1943–1944, the English-speaking countries tried to persuade Turkey to join the war on their side, but Ankara quietly refused, using as a pretext the weakness of its army, which lacked modern materiel, and...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 405-438)
  9. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 439-444)
  10. Index
    (pp. 445-478)