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History and Culture of the Maghrib

History and Culture of the Maghrib

Political Legitimacy in the Medieval Islamic West 

(Dr Amira Bennison, Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib)coverpage.jpg

This two-year project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, has been exploring shared modes of political legitimation across the Straits of Gibraltar from the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries. This project has sought to replace the constraints imposed by national history writing, Moroccan and Spanish, and binary interpretations of Muslim versus Christian cultural spheres in favour of a more nuanced comparison of the development of the Marīnid and Naṣrid sultanates and their relations with Castile, Aragon and other nearby powers. This project is now nearing its final stages and an edited volume related to the project, The Articulation of Power in Medieval Iberia and the Maghrib, is due to be published by the British Academy in spring 2014.

Cities, Ceremonial and Power in the Maghrib

(Dr Amira Bennison, Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib)

This long-term project traces the evolution of a particular ‘language of power’ in the Maghrib with a focus on Morocco and Islamic Iberia and western Algeria where relevant. It will explore how dynasties in these regions represented themselves to their subjects in order to trace the evolution of a western Islamic pattern of legitimation from the eighth century CE to the early modern era. The areas covered will include urban planning and palace construction; public ceremonies and rites; and military progresses across the landscape. Its main contention is that these regions naturally partook of a wider Islamic language of power but that the precise way in which dynasties applied these notions and the genealogies they gave them had a distinct Maghribi colour, rooted in the historical and social specificities of the region.

Two Berber Empires of the Maghrib: The Almoravids and the Almohads

(Dr Amira Bennison, Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib)

This is an ongoing book project exploring the rise and fall of the Almoravid and Almohad dynasties in the Maghrib and the Iberian Peninsula in order to produce a volume for the Edinburgh University Press series on Islamic dynasties. As with the previous project, a key aspect of this historical narrative will be to consider these dynasties not as ‘Moroccan’ and thus as ‘aliens’ in al-Andalus (Islamic Iberia) but as regional Muslim power players who were received by the diverse populations of the Maghrib and al-Andalus is a wide variety of ways. It will also highlight their differences in terms of tribal support base, ideology and structures of legitimation.

The Two Shores: Islamic Spain and Morocco in the pre-modern era

(Dr Amira Bennison, Reader in the History and Culture of the Maghrib)

Al-Andalus or ‘Islamic Spain’ has become a very popular topic both in narrowly academic circles and to the educated public in general to whom it has been marketed as a model of Islamic tolerance towards communities of other faiths, as Europe’s ‘lost civilisation’, and as a Golden Age of literature and culture. Much of this literature and its popularisation in the media is well meaning in the sense that it seeks to present a positive picture of Islam to counter-balance current negative stereotypes. However, the location of ‘good’ and ‘civilised’ Islam in Europe and the celebration of al-Andalus’s unique culture is problematic and grows out of a less innocent historiographical tradition based on the assumptions that al-Andalus was different to other parts of the Islamic world, most notably its neighbour, North Africa, and that the positive aspects of the Islamic period should be attributed to ‘Spaniards’ – Jewish, Christian and Muslim - rather than the Muslim Arabs or Berbers. This book project looks at the history of al-Andalus not as part of the national history of Spain, or for that matter Portugal, but as a trans-national phenomenon predicated on the ebb and flow of influences across the Straits of Gibraltar between al-Andalus and Morocco which gave rise to a distinctive far-western Islamic culture which differed from that of Ifriqiya, modern-day Tunisia and western Libya, and the Middle East too.

Arabic Agronomical Manuals and the Agriculture of Islamic Spain

(Ms Phoebe Luckyn Malone, PhD Student)

This is a study of agronomical literature from Islamic Spain, which attempts to re-assess the place of these works in Andalusi society. These texts have often been studied with little reference to archaeological evidence and without due consideration given to a scholar's conception of his field of study and his relationship with it.

In an attempt to adopt a more balanced approach, this literature is being investigated from three angles: the first is analysing how Andalusi agronomists conceptualised their fields of study and perceived their connection with earlier scholarly traditions; the second is considering the social environment in which these texts were written and the important role of patronage; the third is comparing the content of these works with evidence of actual agricultural practice in order to put these works into context.

A Local History of Granada, al-Khaṭīb's al-Iḥāṭa fī akhbār Gharnaṭa

(Mr Arshad Hadjirin, PhD Student)

This research is centred on a study of local history in the Muslim world, and in particular a history of Granada entitled al-Iḥāṭa fī akhbār Gharnaṭa written by the celebrated Andalusian vizier Lisān al-Dīn b. al-Khaṭīb (713-776 AH/1313-1374 CE).

Inheritors of al-Andalus: A Muslim Minority in Sixteenth Century Spain

(Mrs Amina Nawaz, PhD Student)