Rezension über:

Sylvie Denoix / Hélène Renel (éds.): Atlas des mondes musulmans médiévaux, Paris: CNRS Éditions 2022, 382 S., zahlr. Abb., ISBN 978-2-271-13949-8, EUR 45,00
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Rezension von:
Thomas Barton
History Department, University of San Diego
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Ralf Lützelschwab
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Thomas Barton: Rezension von: Sylvie Denoix / Hélène Renel (éds.): Atlas des mondes musulmans médiévaux, Paris: CNRS Éditions 2022, in: sehepunkte 23 (2023), Nr. 6 [15.06.2023], URL:

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Sylvie Denoix / Hélène Renel (éds.): Atlas des mondes musulmans médiévaux

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This handsome and creatively conceived volume is the product of the "Medieval Islam" sub-group of the collaborative project "Orient & Méditerranée," which is part of the Unité Mixte de Recherche organized and supported by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. Recognizing the existence of numerous other atlases on Islam and Islamic history, the editors have differentiated this work by focusing on themes instead of adopting a traditional chronological overview framework. The result is an engaging, often targeted, analytical survey of premodern Muslim habitation and interaction conducted over the course of seven thematic chapters and supported throughout by a plethora of gorgeously crafted maps, diagrams, and images.

The first chapter, "Representations of the Self and the Other," coordinated by Jean-Charles Ducène, Yann Dejugnat, and Emmanuelle Tixier du Mesnil, surveys how various geographers, cartographers, intellectuals, and travelers during the medieval period conceptualized Islamic societies within the context of the wider interfaith world. While the authors naturally emphasize Muslim witnesses, notably al-Khwārizmī and al-Idrīsī, they also make room for non-Muslim, "outsider" viewpoints, such as the authors of the Catalan Atlas and various fourteenth and several fifteenth-century Chinese cartographers.

"The Dynamic of Muslim Worlds," the second chapter, coordinated by Sylvie Denoix and Vanessa Van Renterghem, surveys the history of Islamic lands from the eighth through the sixteenth century. The authors devote particular attention to the Arabian and broader geo-political contexts of the Islamic conquests, fitna/s and schisms, the administrative accomplishments of the Umayyads and Abbasids following the revolution, and local circumstances in Sicily, the Maghreb, al-Andalus, Fatimid Egypt, the conquests of Iberia and Sicily, the crusades of the eastern Mediterranean, the Islamization of India and the sultanate of Dehli, the rise of new ruling or subject groups (the Turks, Almoravids, Almohads, Ayyubids, Mamluks, Kurds, and Mongols), and the Islamization of Saharan and sub-Saharan Africa.

Chapter Three, "The Urban Phenomenon," coordinated by Mathieu Eychenne, considers the historical evolution of Islamic centers of habitation, from the "ville-camp" of the Arab-Muslim conquest to the "ville-monde" of the caliphs. Of particular interest in this chapter are the numerous finely-grained case studies, each supported by intricately rendered maps, such as the residences fabricated by thirteenth-century military elites at Damascus, the defensive structures at Almería, and the urban fortifications of Delhi (Tughluqabad).

The next chapter, "Places of Devotion, Pilgrimages and the Transmission of Knowledge," coordinated by Maxime Durocher, examines the heterogeneity of Muslim societies undergirded by the development of foundations like the waqf and scholarly institutions like the madrasa, which, in turn, each facilitated and raised the importance of circulation via traveling and traditions such as the ḥajj. While the contributing authors offer numerous fascinating reconstructions, such as of pilgrimage routes within the Arabian Peninsula itself, "From Yemen to Mecca," here again the local case-studies are the most thought-provoking, from the mosques of Fez (Maghreb) to Sufi confraternities in Fars (Persia).

Chapter Five, "Commercial and Artisanal Activities in the City and its Countryside," coordinated by Élodie Vigouroux, conducts an engaging analysis of the ways in which economic activity bound together cities and their surrounding territories throughout the medieval period, again through the pursuit of an array of case-studies. Of particular interest are Vigouroux's treatment of the markets in twelfth-century Damascus and fifteenth-century Fustat.

"Economic Poles and Exchange Networks," the sixth chapter, by Dominique Valérian, broadens its attention to consider longer-distance mercantile interactions throughout and beyond the Islamic world. Valérian and her collaborators treat such topics as the distribution of Islamic coinage, the concentration of Islamic space (chiefly in the Maghreb), Muslim ports in the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean, Islam in the world-economy, the shift from an Islamic Mediterranean to a Latin one, the spread of the Black Death, the role of Egypt as a commercial nexus between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean, commerce under the Mongolian Peace, trans-Saharan trade routes, exchanges with East Africa, river trade itineraries (along the Nile and Volga), stop-over places (fondouk, fondaco, or caravanserai), slave routes, the diffusion of new forms of monoculture (especially sugar cane) throughout the Mediterranean, commerce in gold and silver, the distribution of ceramics (throughout the Mediterranean from Palermo and within the Indian Ocean), and silk production and trading.

The final chapter, "Geopolitical Issues, Internal and External," coordinated by Denise Aigle and Éva Collet, addresses "conquests, reconquests, crusades and jihad" among Muslims as well as between Muslims and infidels. The chapter begins with a fascinating discussion and mapping of homing pigeon networks used throughout the eastern Mediterranean. The authors then move on to consider a wide range in important and interesting topics, such as the military engagements that brought about the end of the Latin crusader states, the thirteenth and fourteenth-century networks of Mamluk fortresses in northern Syria, population movements along the frontier spaces between Byzantium and Syria in the tenth century, the environment of the frontier (Thaghr) in the Iberian Peninsula, interactions between Christian Nubians and Muslim Egyptians, diplomatic relations between the Fatimids and Byzantium, and diplomatic relations between the Mongols and the West.

A glossary and bibliography, by chapter, containing a plethora of chiefly French and English-language references, make the volume an even more helpful resource for students and newcomers to the subject. In conclusion, this affordably priced and beautiful atlas does far more than offer an assortment of high-quality maps and images. With an eye to the most critical historiographic trends, it conducts a well-informed synthetic overview of the formation, maturation, localization, and integration of the Islamic world as well as its interaction with surrounding territories and peoples.

Thomas Barton