Reviews

Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, ca. 1050–1614

Through crusades and expulsions, Muslim communities survived for over 500 years, thriving in medieval Europe. This comprehensive new study explores how the presence of Islamic minorities transformed Europe in everything from architecture to cooking, literature to science, and served as a stimulus for Christian society to define itself. Combining a series of regional studies, Catlos compares the varied experiences of Muslims across Iberia, southern Italy, the Crusader Kingdoms and Hungary to examine those ideologies that informed their experiences, their place in society and their sense of themselves as Muslims. This is a pioneering new narrative of the history of medieval and early modern Europe from the perspective of Islamic minorities; one which is not, as we might first assume, driven by ideology, isolation and decline, but instead one in which successful communities persisted because they remained actively integrated within the larger Christian and Jewish societies in which they lived.

  • Offers the first comprehensive study of the phenomenon of Muslim minorities in Latin Christendom
  • Provides a unique narrative of the history of late medieval and early modern Europe from the perspective of Islamic minorities
  • Combines detailed regional case studies with analysis of the Muslim experience across Europe as a whole

Listen: "Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom," audio interview on New Books in Islamic Studies (July 2014) [stream]

Winner - 2014 Albert Hourani Book Prize (Middle East Studies Association)

"Various members of the committee described it as "a major work of scholarship," "magisterial," "a classic," and "the result of decades of historical and archival research." ... Catlos provides a landmark work of synthesis on the neglected history of the Muslim subaltern during and after the so-called Reconquista. His work sets a model for future research on Mediterranean studies, encouraging not only a new level of complex analysis but also hybridization of Medieval European and Islamic history."
Prof. Tayeb el-Hibri (Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, UM Amherst), Prize committee chair.

From the Back Cover

"The time is right for a sustained synthesis of the last few generations' mountain of research on the experience of Muslims under Latin-Christian rule in the Mediterranean lands. Brian Catlos has accomplished that difficult feat impressively in this volume, but much more as well. On offer also are his own extensive knowledge of the vast primary-source base that has undergirded that research, his own unfailingly deft analysis of complex social and cultural realities, and his ever energetic and readable prose, making Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, c. 1050 - 1614 not just an essential summation of Mudejar studies, but a model for future research on this rich topic."
Thomas E. Burman, Department of History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

"Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom is one of the most significant works on Christian-Muslim relations to have been published in the past 25 years. The book is original and scholarly, and its conclusions are wise."
Simon Barton, Department of History, University of Exeter

"This is the first monograph that analyzes the Muslim communities of Medieval Latin Christendom. Brian Catlos combines a focus on the diversity of experiences of these minorities in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Hungary with insightful discussions of general traits that shaped Islamic societies across medieval Europe. Making excellent use of the explosion of academic studies into this field of the last years on the one hand, and showing a passion for pioneering work on archival documents and manuscript sources on the other, Catlos brings the study of the economic, social, cultural and religious life of these minorities a major step forward."
Gerard Wiegers, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Amsterdam and Visiting Research Fellow, Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Ruhr University Bochum

"The first modern scholarly work on this subject in any language, Brian Catlos's magisterial new book is likely to command its field for a long while to come. Well known for his studies of religious minorities in medieval Spain, Catlos here not only synthesizes an immense literature on mudéjar societies, but writes with equal authority on Italy, Hungary, the Crusader States, and indeed everywhere that Muslim subalterns, slaves, or captives were to be found within medieval Latin Europe. In its range, learning, archival depth, clarity, and vigor, this is an astonishing achievement."
Peregrine Horden, Professor in Medieval History, Royal Holloway University of London

Reviews:

"This book will become the standard book in English for any aspect of Muslim presence in Christian society in the Middle Ages."
Charles Burnett, Warburg Institute, University of London
Journal of Islamic Studies (May 2015)

"A book providing a detailed, nuanced history of medieval/early-modern Muslims living under Christian rule might seem to preclude generalizations and readability. That this is not the case is a tribute to both the author's organization and erudition. The initial chapters provide a diachronic history of the Mudejar communities living in Christian regions (Iberian and Italian peninsulas, Sicily, North Africa, the Levant, and eastern Europe). The later chapters discuss the ideological-religious, administrative, quotidian aspects of the interaction between (and within) members of the different religious groups (including the Jews). Markedly erudite is the author's extensive knowledge (and synthesis) of the secondary literature, as well as his command of the textual and nontextual primary sources (with special emphasis on their strengths and limitations). Catlos (religion, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder) begins each chapter with an analysis of the available sources, and chapter subdivisions start with a textual source pertinent to the subject under discussion. A glossary of important terms found at the end of the book is extremely useful, and clearly indicates that the author's intended audience is upper-level undergraduates and professionals. This book will quickly become (and long remain) a vade mecum for students interested in the topic."
Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates and above.
R. T. Ingoglia, Caldwell University
Choice (October 2014)

"This is an ambitious, impressive, and timely book; one that sets out to redefine and establish a new standard in its field. The fruit of many years' work in the archival collections and libraries of Europe (above all Spain) and the US, often in collaborative partnership with high level international research projects, its rich and detailed findings will undoubtedly serve as the starting-point for a great deal of future scholarship on Muslim-Christian relations in the Middle Ages and early modern period. ... this book provides a lucid and convincing portrayal of medieval and early modern Islamic life under Christian rule--with all its diversity and nuance, its awkwardness and contradictions, and all the glories and the ugliness to be found in such "a world of visceral generalized violence" (157). It sugar-coats nothing, and draws some bold links between medieval and modern problems. It is a tremendous scholarly accomplishment, with much to teach experts and beginners alike. It will long remain an invaluable reference for those researching any one of its component parts, whether alone or in comparative perspective, as well as an authoritative general analysis of minority and subaltern life under alien rule. "
Robin Vose, St. Thomas University
The Medieval Review (June 2015)

"La síntesis representa un aspecto imprescindible para el avance del conocimiento histórico y define, en buena medida, la esencia del trabajo del historiador. Catlos ha sabido responder a este reto con creces, elaborando un estudio en el que combina un enfoque novedoso con un tratamiento riguroso de las fuentes. Una monografía, en suma, que denota la gran capacidad de trabajo y que debe ser considerada como una excelente aportación."
Alejandro García Sanjuán, Universidad de Huelva
Anuari d'estudis medievals (June 2015)

"Catlos chose an intimidating title for an extremely ambitious book. The result is an intense and yet coherent reading, enriched by numerous source extracts, a comprehensive and up-to-date engagement with international historiography and a useful glossary.... While acknowledging the limitations of his project, especially the lack of sources for some areas and time periods, Catlos successfully describes complex historical and historiographical landscapes. He encourages the reader to revisit ideas of tolerance, conversion and convivencia with an awareness of the complexity of such multiple interactions to avoid 'questions badly put'. "
Antonella Liuzzo Scorpo, University of Lincoln
HistoryToday (9 September 2015)

"...this is an impressive, detailed, nuanced and scholarly approach that demonstrates the plurality of identities in Latin Christendom. Catlos not only demonstrates the integral and successful position of most of the Muslim communities, but also demonstrates that their contribution was essential to the shaping of European culture. By providing localized examples and contex- tualizing the complex history of Muslims (and all of the different ethnicities it encompasses) and Christians, Catlos provides an insight into religion in the Middle Ages that does not rely on the stock trope of Islam and Christianity constantly pitted against each other..."
Shazia Jagot, University of Southern Denmark
Journal of Religion in Europe (October 2015)

"Catlos's book is groundbreaking for many reasons. The foremost of these is that in the wake of strong anti-Muslim sentiment today, Catlos dares to present the other side of the picture: our medieval past when Christians mistreated and butchered Muslims... Catlos provides us with a valuable counternarrative that will embolden others to pick up where he left off. This book offers an alternative textbook for the study of the Latin West and the roots of its interaction with the Muslim world."
Karen Pinto, Boise State University
Review of Middle East Studies (February 2015)

"... a book that successfully opens a window into a topic that no scholarly monograph has previously attempted, shedding light on these often obscure Muslim minorities and providing, to the general public and scholars alike, an original and innovative narrative of the history of medieval and early modern Europe."
Javier Albarrán, Instituto de Lenguas y Culturas del Mediterráneo (CSIC)
English Historical Review (February 2016)

"... Catlos's examination of the critical issue of identity is adept and perceptive. He constructs a nuanced and persuasive picture that suggests that devotional creed functioned above ethnicity, language, and social class as a marker of identity. He also has a keen eye for local vari- ation, noting how the agency of environmental factors— such as geography, topography, and hydrology— combined with political fragmentation to produce a di- verse range of communities, and concomitant variega- tion in practice and experience."
Thomas Absrdge, Queen May University of London
American Historical Review (April 2016)

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