SOAS University of London

Department of History

Islam and the West

Course Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 2

This course examines the relationship that developed between the Islamic world and the West and their historical impact on each other. The class surveys and analyses the historical relationship between these two regions from the rise of Islam through the early modern period and the advent of European colonialism to modern-day fundamentalism. The course will focus on the Mediterranean as the sphere of diplomatic, trade and cultural relations, with particular emphasis on those periods that saw an intensified interaction between the two civilizations, such as the Crusades in Syria, the Reconquista of the Iberian peninsula, and the Norman conquest of Sicily. The course is mainly taught via seminar discussions and includes a field trip.

NOTE: This course may not be taken if you are taking (or have taken) 154800254 H241 The Middle East in the Period of the Crusades, 1050-1291

  1. Introduction
  2. ‘Islam’ and ‘the West’: Terminology and Paradigms of Interaction
  3. The Rise of Islam: The Byzantine and Sasanian Empires, Muhammad, the Arab Conquests
  4. The Latin West: History and Cultural Contacts
  5. Islamic Spain: Convivencia and Reconquista
  6. The Crusades Seen from the West: The Background to the Crusades
  7. The Crusades Seen from the East: The Muslim Reaction
  8. Sicily after the Norman Conquest

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

At the end of a course, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • an understanding of the contours of Islamic history and how Islamic civilization interacted with the Western world, including both the positive interactions between the two civilizations as well as the conflicts and polemics that have strained relations between them
  • an understanding of the dominant paradigms that inform studies of relations between the two civilizations
  • the ability to engage with primary as well as secondary sources in writing history

Method of assessment

Coursework - one 1.5 hour exam worth 40%, one 3,000 word essay worth 45%, one 30-minute in-class test worth 15%. NYUL has a strict policy about course attendance. All unexcused absences attract a grade penalty.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules