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The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate

The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate: Ifriqiya and Its Andalusis, 1200-1400

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate
    Book Description:

    The thirteenth century marks a turning point in the history of the western Mediterranean. The armies of Castile and Aragon won significant and decisive victories over Muslims in Iberia and took over a number of important cities including Cordoba, Seville, Jaen, and Murcia. Chased out of their native cities, a large number of Andalusis migrated to Ifr?qiya in northern Africa. There, a newly founded Hafsid dynasty (1229-1574) welcomed members of the Andalusi elite and showered them with honors and high positions at court. While historians have tended to conceive of Ifr?qiya as a region ruled by the Hafsids, Ramzi Rouighi argues in The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate that the Andalusis who joined the Hafsid court supported economic arrangements and political relationships that effectively prevented regional integration from taking place during this period. Rouighi examines an array of documentary, literary, and legal sources to argue that Ifr?qiya was integrated neither politically nor economically and that, consequently, it was not a region in a meaningful sense. Through a close reading of narrative sources, especially historical chronicles, Rouighi further argues that the emergence in the late fourteenth century of the political ideology of Emirism accounts for the representation of the rule of the Hafsid dynasty over cities as its rule over the whole of Ifr?qiya. Setting the activities of Andalusis such as the celebrated historian Ibn Khaldūn (1332-1406) in relation to specific political, economic, and intellectual developments in Ifr?qiya, The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate proposes a counter to the dynastic-centric view of the period that pervades medieval sources and continues to inform most modern generalizations about the Maghrib and the Mediterranean.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0462-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. INTRODUCTION: Orientations
    (pp. 1-22)

    Any book about medieval North Africa, and this one is no exception, confronts at least two sets of related problems from the outset. First, the prevailing modes of scholarly interpretation incorporate multiple layers of conceptual difficulties. Second, so do the historical sources. In both cases, the issues are often connected but not always in the same way, with the same effect, or for the same reasons. All historians who confront the relationship between their own notions and those of the sources they seek to elucidate share these two problems. However, when it comes to the study of medieval North Africa,...


    • CHAPTER 1 The Politics of the Emirate
      (pp. 25-54)

      When the Ḥafṣid ruler Abū zakariyā Yaḥyā (r. 1229–49) died, his son Abū ‘Abd Allāh Muḥammad al-Mustanṣir (r. 1249–77) became ruler of Ifrīqiyā. Acceding to the throne in Tunis, al-Mustanṣir took control of a large kingdom that stretched from Ṭarāblus (Tripoli) in the east to Bijāya in the west. During his long reign, Bedouins, powerful Almohad sheikhs, and urban elites continuously challenged his authority. In 1270, the integrity of his kingdom miraculously survived a Crusade against Tunis led by Louis IX.¹ Saved by Louis’ death, al-Mustanṣir still had to pay a great sum of money to end the...

    • CHAPTER 2 Taxation and Land Tenure
      (pp. 55-75)

      The Ḥafṣid dynasty was not able to keep all of Ifrīqiyā under its political control in the fourteenth century. However, there is nothing preventing the local configuration of Ḥafṣid rule from fostering the development of a regional economy. Political unity and economic integration needed not go hand in hand. But the activities of the ruling elite and its allies did nothing to encourage, promote, or support the types of specialization in production and circulation that would have made Ifrīqiyā an economic unit. Instead, the range of their intervention outside cities narrowed over time and become mostly extractive and predatory and,...

    • CHAPTER 3 Between Land and Sea
      (pp. 76-94)

      In the tenth century, Bijāya made its first appearance in written sources as one of a number of small ports on the Mediterranean coast when the merchant, traveler, and geographer Ibn Ḥawqal (fl. 970) mentioned the city in passing.¹ A century later, however, it was a large and important port. Al-Bakrī (d. 1094), an Andalusi writer who based his “Book of Kingdoms and Routes” on the reports of merchants and travelers, described Bijāya as a safe haven populated by Andalusis.² He added that Bijāya was the primary port that serviced Qal‘at Banī Ḥammād, the Ḥammādid capital.³

      Bijāya’s growth continued. At...


    • CHAPTER 4 The Age of the Emir
      (pp. 97-122)

      More than anything else, the political history of Ifrīqiyā demonstrates the fragility of Ḥafṣid domination, the continuing need of forming alliances with various groups outside the cities, and the dynasty’s limited success in persuading non-urban elites of the necessity of its rule. Any discussion of the political ideology imbedded in elite sources must begin by acknowledging these basic truths about politics. Doing so allows us to focus on why the sources framed their narratives in ways that emphasize the centrality of the Ḥafṣid dynasty, even as they described less favorable political realities. Before going further, however, it seems useful to...

    • CHAPTER 5 Learning and the Emirate
      (pp. 123-147)

      Abū al-‘Abbās al-Ghubrīnī (1246–1304), judge and author of a biographical dictionary of Bijāya’s learned men, distinguished sharply between those who belonged in his great text and those who should be consigned to oblivion and obscurity. In the last decades of the thirteenth century, during the reign of the first independent Ḥafṣid emir of Bijāya, Abū zakariyā Yaḥyā (1285–1301), al-Ghubrīnī wrote with contempt about those who used Sufi ideas to gather people around them.

      These people are a bunch of ignoramuses (jumlat aghbiyā’) who have no knowledge (‘ilm); their practices (‘amal) are improper, they are not [legitimate] Sufis (taṣṣawwuf),...

    • CHAPTER 6 Emirism and the Writing of History
      (pp. 148-172)

      Through their patronage of institutions of learning and their appointment of intellectuals to official positions, the ḤafṢids shaped the institutional context within which intellectual production took place. schools, the courts, and Sufi zawāya (sing. zāwiya) were essential sites for the execution of their cultural politics. They used them to gain the favor of some, quiet others, and undermine the standing of those who stood against them.

      The ability of an emir to gain the support of prominent intellectuals to his cause was critical to his legitimacy among the elites. Their help allowed him to build up his stature, undermine his...

  6. CONCLUSION: Departures
    (pp. 173-178)

    I began this volume by showing that a focus on Bijāya challenges the appearance of ḤafṢid dynastic continuity and brings attention to relations between the activities of elite groups and political arrangements and ideas. Figuring prominently among these groups were the Almohad sheikhs from whose ranks the ḤafṢids emerged, elite Andalusis, the elites of cities, and a number of powerful groups in the countryside. While the composition, orientation, and evolution of these groups changed over time, they shaped the transformation of ḤafṢid rule in Ifrīqiyā from a regional configuration centered on Tunis to a local one in which a number...

  7. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 179-180)
  8. NOTES
    (pp. 181-220)
    (pp. 221-234)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 235-238)