SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Islamic Art & Architecture of the Medieval Mediterranean (12th-15th centuries)

Module Code:
Module Withdrawn
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4

This course examines the Islamic art and architecture of the Mediterranean basin between the 12th and 15th centuries. It was a time of dynamism, with the rise of Latin Christian cultures in the north and west, the Reconquista, the Crusades, the eclipse of the Byzantine Empire, and the rise of Turco-Islamic states in its stead.
While this course concentrates on Islamic art, it will examine overlaps between Islamic and Christian arts in such areas as Spain, Sicily, the Crusader states of the eastern Mediterranean, and Anatolia. Emphasis will be on dynastic and regional developments, but will also track the rise of the commercialisation of material culture production. It also aims to sample the full range of material culture, complementing traditional emphases on arts of the court and religious art with commercial architecture, numismatics, and archaeological finds.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Better understand the art and architecture of the central and western Islamic lands in a formative period.
  • Better understand the interplay between Christian and Islamic artistic traditions in the medieval period.
  • Better understand the relationship between material cultural production and economic and societal structures.
  • Better understand  the relationship between art history and archaeology.

Scope and syllabus

Covering a wide geographical and temporal range, this course is organized by dynasty and region, but also includes common themes relating dynastic and commercial artistic production, and art and archaeology:

Term 1
Week 1 The Eastern Mediterranean in the 11th century
Week 2 The Crusader States of the eastern Mediterranean
Week 3 Jerusalem before and during the Crusades
Week 4 The Zangids: Architecture
Week 5 Crusader Era Numismatics
Week 7 Crusader Era Archaeology
Week 8 The Ayyubids
Week 9 The Ayyubids
Week 10 The Early Mamluk Sultanate
Week 11 The Early Mamluk Sultanate
Term 2

Week 1 Fatimid Egypt
Week 2 Fatimid Egypt
Week 3 The Great Seljuks in Syria
Week 4  The Seljuks of Anatolia
Week 5  The Seljuks of Anatolia
Week 7 Anatolia under the Mongols
Week 8  Beylik Anatolia
Week 9  The Early Ottoman State
Week 10  The Early Ottoman State
Week 11 The Ottomans and Istanbul

Method of assessment

2 assignments of 3,000 words worth 40% of final mark (20% each) and an exam worth 60% of final mark

Suggested reading

  • David Abulafia, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (Oxford: OUP, 2011).
  • Ekrem Akurgal, ed., The Art and Architecture of Turkey (Oxford: OUP, 1980).
  • Behrens-Abouseif, Doris, Cairo of the Mamluks: A History of the Architecture and its Culture (London: IB Tauris, 2007).
  • Bloom, Jonathan, Arts of the City Victorious: Islamic Art and Architecture in Fatimid North Africa and Egypt (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007).
  • Olivia Remie Constable, Housing the Stranger in the Mediterranean World: Lodging, Trade, and Travel in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Cambridge: CUP, 2003).
  • Thomas Dale, “Cultural Hybridity in Medieval Venice,” in Maguire and Nelson, eds., San Marco, Byzantium, and the Myths of Venice (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks, 2010), 151-191.
  • Kate Fleet, ed., The Cambridge History of Turkey Vol. 1. (Cambridge: CUP, 2006).
  • Jaroslav Folda,  Crusader Art in the Holy Land: From the Third Crusade to the Fall of Acre, 1187-1291 (Cambridge: CUP, 2005)
  • Jaroslav Folda, The Art of the Crusaders in the Holy Land 1099-1187 (Cambridge: CUP, 1995).
    Maria Georgopoulou, “The Artistic World of the Crusaders and Oriental Christians in the 12th and 13th Centuries,” Gesta 43 (2004), 115-138.
  • S.D. Goitein, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza Volume 4 (Berkeley: University of California Press).
  • Robert Hillenbrand, Islamic Architecture: Form, Function, and Meaning (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).
  • Robert Hillenbrand and Sylvia Auld, eds, Ayyubid Jerusalem: The Holy City in Context (1187-1250) (London: Altajir Trust, 2009).
  • Eva Hoffman, “Pathways of Portability: Islamic and Christian interchange from the 10th to the 12th century,” Art History 24 (2001); pp. 17-50.
  • Eva Hoffman,  “Christian-Islamic Encounters on 13th Century Ayyubid Metalwork: Local Culture, Authenticity, and Memory,” Gesta 43 (2004), 129-142.
  • Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000).
  • Peregrine Horden and Sharon Kinoshita, eds, A Companion to Mediterranean History (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014).
  • Ibn Battuta, (H.A.R. Gibb trans.) The Travels of Ibn Battuta (Cambridge: Hakluyt Society, 1958)
  • Ibn Jubayr, (R.J.C. Broadhurst, trans.) The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, Being the Chronicle of a Mediaeval Spanish Moor Concerning his Journey to the Egypt of Saladin, The Holy Cities of Arabia, Baghdad, the City of the Caliphs, the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, and the Norman Kingdom of Sicily (London: Jonathan Cape, 1952).
  • Ibn Khaldun (Franz Rosenthal trans.) The Muqaddimah: an Introduction to History (Princeton: PUP, 2005).
  • Çiğdem Kafescioğlu, Constantinopolis/Istanbul: Cultural Encounter, Imperial Vision, and the Construction of the Ottoman Capital (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009).
  • Nasir-i Khusraw, (W.M. Thackston, trans.) Nasir-i Khusraw’s Book of Travels (Costa Mesa: Mazda, 2001).
  • Carl Petry, ed., The Cambridge History of Egypt (Cambridge: CUP, 1998).
  • Scott Redford, “On Saqis and Ceramics: Systems of Representation in the Northeast Mediterranean,” in D. Weiss and L. Mahoney, eds, France and the Holy Land: Frankish Culture at the End of the Crusades, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), pp. 282-312.
  • Scott Redford "Just Landscape in Medieval Anatolia," Studies in the History of Gardens and Designed Landscapes 20 (2000), pp. 313-324.
  • Yasser Tabbaa, Constructions of Power and Piety in Medieval Aleppo (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997).
  • Yasser Tabbaa, The Transformation of Islamic Art During the Sunni Revival (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2001).
  • Zibaldone da Canal (John Dotson, ed. and trans.) Merchant Culture in Fourteenth Century Venice. The Zibaldone da Canal   (Binghamton, N.Y.: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1997).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules