The Muslims of Medieval Italy

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: History


Muslim settlement in Sicily and parts of the Italian mainland endured for almost 500 years. During this often troubled period between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, a region of outstanding material and cultural wealth was created along the very edge of a fiercely-contested Muslim-Christian frontier in the same period as the 'Reconquista' of Islamic Spain and the Crusades to the Holy Land.

Islamic Sicily thus came to exert a huge influence on the development of south Italy and the central Mediterranean, and Muslim influence was to endure long into the medieval period. In spite of this, Islamic Sicily (827-1071) and the Muslims of Norman, Swabian and Angevin Sicily (1071-1300) have remained one of the most under-studied, major subject areas of medieval history.

Even after their defeat at the hands of the Normans in the eleventh century, Muslim presence and influence continued at the highest levels as the following generations came to create a kingdom which consciously fashioned itself on southern and eastern Mediterranean precedents. Thus, the Norman Sicilian kingship comprised elements appropriated from Arab-Islamic, Byzantine Greek, as well as Latin-Christian models to transmit an impression of their authority. But, while this might be interpreted as a 'model state' of tolerance or a 'land without Crusades', the Muslim communities were subject to increasing levels of violence culminating in a series of massacres and their eventual deportation to a colony on the mainland which was disbanded in 1300 thus ending Muslim presence in medieval Italy.

One of the central arguments of my book is that an important key to achieving a balanced understanding of this history lies in an integrated and comprehensive knowledge of all the different strands of research woven together and set against their appropriate backgrounds. In spite of the significance and relevance of this subject area, no reliable, modern work exists in English which sets out to explain and contextualise all the key issues, new evidence, recent advances and interpretations relating to the complex rise and fall of the Muslims of medieval Italy and their long-term roles and impact on the evolution of medieval Europe.

The main benefits of this book are thus two-fold. First, it will provide an accurate, incisive and much-needed history of the Muslims in Italy and Sicily for the benefit of the research community of scholars and students. Second, it will be of major relevance to those wishing to engage with the broader, cultural questions that arise from the study of Muslim-Christian relations. As such, the book will have a significant appeal to a wide cross-section of modern readers.


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