Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2022/2023

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, the student will have achieved a critical understanding of some important aspects of the history of Muslim-Christian relations between the Middle Age and the early modern period. The student will be able to harness complex categories and concepts in a long-term perspective. He/she will have familiarized with extra-European cultural and geographical contexts and will be able to acknowledge the relevance of historical and cross-cultural approaches for current debates. The student will be able to identify and express the points of view of different cultures. He/she will know how to recognize and evaluate diversity and plurality as intrinsic elements of Muslim-Christian relations throughout history.

Course contents

After an initial theoretical and methodological discussion about the pros and cons of the Mediterranean as an analytical category (week 1), we will survey the most common themes and patterns that have characterized the study of inter-communal relations (week 2). Next, we will examine some cases of interaction between Muslims and Christians (week 3 to 5), both in conflictual and non-conflictual contexts between the 13th to 15th century.  We will note the multiplicity of interactions, and by way of historicization we will question the heuristic and epistemological utility of the category "Islamic-Christian relations" .


Syllabus for attending students.

Week 1 

The Mediterranean as an analytical space.

Eric Dursteler, “On Renaissance Bazaars and Battlefields: Recent Scholarship on Mediterranean Cultural Contacts”, in: Journal of Early Modern History 15/5 (2011), pp. 413-434.

Ramzi Rouighi, “A Mediterranean of Relations for the Medieval Maghrib: Historiography in Question, in al-Masāq (2017), pp. 1-20.

Nabil Matar, “The “Mediterranean” through Arab Eyes in the Early Modern Period: From Rūmī to the “White In-Between Sea”, in Judith E. Tucker, The Maling of the Modern Mediterranean https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.1525/9780520973206/html. Views from the South (University of California Press, 2019), pp. 16-34.

And the texts we well discuss together in class.

Week 2

Non-Muslim under Muslim rule : prescriptive discourses.

  • Yohanan Friedmann, art. “Dhimma” in Encylcopedia of Islam. THREE (Disponibile online tra le risorse Unibo).
  • Luke Yarbrough, “Muslim rulers, Christian subjects”, in: Douglass Pratt – Charles Tieszen (a cura di), Christian Muslim Relations. Vol. 15. Thematic Essays (600-1600), pp. 359-387 (utile per una visione d’insieme diacronica).
  • Marina Rustow, “At the Limits of Communal Autonomy: Jewish Bids for Intervention from the Mamluk State”, in Mamluk Studies Review, 13/2 (2009), pp. 133-159 (caso studio. I numeri della Mamluk Studies Review si trovano disponibili online in modalità ‘open access’ : https://mamluk.uchicago.edu/msr.html)

And the sources we well discuss together in class.

Students who have already taken courses in the history of muslim societies or history of Islam, or who otherwise have some familiarity with the subject, may replace Friedmann and Yarbrough with:

Tamar El Leithy, "Sufis, Copts, and the Politics of Piety: Moral Regulation in 14th-century Upper Egypt" in Adam Sabra and Richard McGregor (a cura di), The Development of Sufism in Mamluk Egypt, (Cairo: IFAO, 2006), pp. 75-120.

Week 3

Christian-Muslim dialogues? Reedeming Muslim Captives in Cyprus.

  • Jon Hoover, Ibn Taymiyya (Oxford: Oneworld, 2019), pp. 5-44.
  • Ibn Taymiyya, Lettera ad un Re Crociato. Riflessioni sui fondamenti della «vera religione», traduzione italiana a cura di M. Di Branco, Biblioteca di Via Senato, 2004.
  • Diego Sarrìo Cucariella, “Corresponding across religious borders. The letter of Ibn Taymiyya to a crusader in Cyprus”, in: Islamochristiana 36 (2010), pp. 1-16.

Week 4

Silences : Francis and al-Malik al-Kāmil.

  • John Tolan, Il Santo dal Sultano, traduzione italiana (originale inglese 2009), Laterza 2009, Introduzione e capitolo 1 (caso studio).
  • Jason Welle, “Damietta after 800: Sources, Effects, Prospects”, in: Islamochristiana 45 (2019), pp. 39-65.
  • Caterina Bori, “Conclusive or Clue? Reading uexpected silences in our sources”, Rivista degli Studi Orientali 95/4 (2022), pp. 23-34.

Week 5

Material culture and Conclusions.

Cultura materiale, e conclusioni.

  • Francesca Trivellato, “The Historical and Comparative Study of Cross-Cultural Trade”, in Francesca Trivellato, Leor Halevi, Catia Antunes (a cura di), Religion and Trade: Cross-Cultural Exchanges in World History, 1000-1900Oxford Univeristy Press, 2014.
  • Leor Halevi, "Christian Impurity versus Economic Necessity: A Fifteenth-Century Fatwa on European Paper", Speculum 83 (2008), pp. 917-945.

* Scheduled readings are liable to (some) variation as the lectures approach or during the lectures.

Syllabus for non-attending students.

The syllabus for non-attending is more classically oriented towards Islamic Studies.

Andrew Rippin, Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Londra: Routledge, quarta edizione 2012.

Alfred-Louis de Prémare, Alle origini del Corano, Roma: Carocci, 2014.

Talal Asad, The Idea of an Anthopology of Islam, Georgetown: Center for the Study of Contemporary islam, 1986, 28pp (reperibile on-line).

Shahab Ahmed, What is Islam? The importance of being Islamic, Princeton University Press, 2016, Introduction and chapter 2, 3 or  4.

Teaching methods


Group discussion


Assessment methods

Oral exam

Teaching tools

Power point presentations.

Textual sources in translation.

Visual sources.

Office hours

See the website of Caterina Bori