Cultural Exchange between Europe and Muslim societies 1050-1500:  the search for knowledge in an age of Crusades and Empires.

We have substantial evidence of expanded interest and exchange of scholarly effort and studies between the Greek and Latinate Europe and the wider Arabic speaking and Muslim areas of Europe, North Africa, the Levant and Central Asia.  As a result of this intensive and impressive scholastic work, we find a revolution in the sciences, medicine and philosophy emerge. Following the lead from Ernst Robert Curtius’ classic study, European Literature in the Latin Middle Ages, we’ll examine how and why a large corpus of scientific, medical, philosophical and literary knowledge was passed from Jewish and Muslim scholarship into the Latin based and Christian centers of learning, universities, monasteries and to individual scholars in Europe.

The period 1050-1500 is also marked as a period of a series of Crusades military campaigns and wars that broke out between the European land based kingdoms and empires against Muslim held territories  and lands. These Crusades were first declared as warring campaigns in 1095 and went through at least five or seven different iterations and lengthy military campaigns that stretched from the initial invasion of the Middle East to attempt to seize Jerusalem and hold its surrounding territories, to other European crusades against Spain, Sicily and Italy.  From the European side, a study of the Norman Empire and its expansion after 1050 into England, Ireland, Sicily, Italy and Northern Syria is especially instructive, and I have a  Normans courseblog that guides you through some of the cultural and political ramifications.

In this section we’ll briefly explore how as students and scholars we may approach this subject and by the end of the session I’ll leave each of you with the task in small groups or individually to explore this exchange and report back to us next class what you have found and discovered.


Brentjes, Sonja and Morrison, Robert.  The sciences in Islamic societies (750-1800). Vol. 4 in New Cambridge History of Islam:  Islamic Cultures and Societies to the End of the Eighteenth Century, edited by Robert Irwin, 564-639.  New York:  Cambridge University Press.

Faroqhi, Suraiya N. 2010. Demography and Migration. Vol. 4, in New Cambridge History of Islam: Islamic Cultures and Societies to the End of the Eighteenth Century, edited by Robert Irwin, 306-31. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Gutas, Dimitri 1998. Greek thought, Arabic culture:  The Graeco Arabic translation movement in Baghdad and early ‘Abbasid society (2nd 4th/8th 10th centuries) (New York and London).

Hasse, Dag Nikolaus. 2014. “Influence of Arabic and Islamic Philosophy on the Latin West.” Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy, Fall 2014 ed.

Taylor, Ricahrd 2011. Philosophy.

Vol. 4, New Cambridge History of Islam:  Islamic Cutlures and Societies to the End of the Eighteenth Century, edited by Robert Irwin, 532-563.  New York:  Cambridge University Press.

Universidad de Castilla – de la Mancha. 2012. The School of Translators of Toledo.