SOAS University of London

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

War and Peace in the Eastern Mediterranean: Art and Architecure of Medieval Syria and Palestine

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Year of study:
Year 2, Year 3 or Year 4
Taught in:
Term 2

This course examines the Islamic art and architecture of the Mediterranean basin between the 12th and 14th centuries, the period of the Crusades. 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 the eastern Mediterranean during the two centuries of the Crusader states of the eastern Mediterranean. 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

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Better understand the art and architecture of the central 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.


  • One hour Lecture, one hour Tutorial

Method of assessment

  • One 2 500 words essay (worth 40%)
  • One two hour exam (worth 60%)

Suggested reading

  • David Abulafia, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (Oxford: OUP, 2011).
  • 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.
  • 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).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules