Medieval Mediterranean Series

The Medieval Mediterranean series publishes short-form monographs of c. 30,000 words (excl. notes, etc.). The aim is to produce books that can transcend prescribed chronological, disciplinary, and other structural boundaries while also remaining sensitive to the historical, linguistic, and performative issues that are crucial for the study of and respective fields within Medieval Mediterranean research. As such, we do also welcome proposals for select edited volumes (of the same size) containing four to five essays, and dialogue or debate volumes in which scholars present arguments and respond to one another. There is room too for urgent archaeological reports, theoretical and methodological proposals, research-event publication, and creative approaches to narrating and representing the Medieval Mediterranean.

Prospective Authors: follow submission guidelines in the tab Scope, Submission, & Style

General Editor

Senior Advisory Board

The Medieval Mediterranean: Why this Short-Book series

(*We would like to warmly thank Nancy Khalek and Jamie Wood for their respective contributions to the following.)

The “Mediterranean” as an ontological “place,” a real and imagined entity endowed with inherent and inscribed meaning, on the one hand, and, as an analytical historical category, on the other hand, has been the object of scholarly enquiry for generations. The idea of the Mediterranean – to some the Maris magni, to others the center of the world, etc. – is as old as the ancient sources we encounter. The Mediterranean as a genuine holistic unit comprising a unique set of shared and contested identities, beliefs, practices, pasts and futures, or as metaphorical setting for destiny or salvation, for allegories and epics and religious texts, are concepts woven within and what define the tapestry of the region’s history, and its self. We can point to nearly endless examples, from the 6th-century emperor Justinian’s spiritual- and historical-propelled desire to reconnect the Mediterranean from the East to the West, to the seventh-century bishop Isidore of Seville’s “starting” the Mediterranean in the West, to the tenth-century geographer Al-Istakhrī’s emphasis on the liminal aspects of the Mediterranean. The Mediterranean weighed heavily in the minds, memories and language of people living and traveling within and in proximity to, and speaking about, the worlds this series will investigate. Perhaps similar to the ambiguously defined paradigms of the modern world – e.g. “the West,” or “Democracy” – or other modern geopolitical inventions – e.g. “the Middle East,” or “the Third World,” the Mediterranean oscillated between the subconscious sentiments and conscious expressions of ancient and medieval people. But which people, and why, and to what extent was the Mediterranean an organically imagined social identity or tool of political and historical rhetoric? How much was “the Mediterranean” part of daily life as opposed to being a historical “truth” elicited when authority, identity, belief and other features of life were challenged, when a person may have sought clarification on the meaning of their actions, their life, their past?

The Medieval Mediterranean is an extremely rich area for research, and these questions only touch the surface of what its past figures have left to us and what there is in it to explore. Various early modern and modern authors – re-fascinated by it – made attempts at understanding, re-figuring, or theorizing the Mediterranean. For example, Hegel thought of the Mediterranean as the great unifier of continents, and Jacob Burckhardt’s Mediterranean foreshadowed Jules Romains’s “unanime,” while other and later German thinkers recast the entire [hypermasculinized] battle for existence as one between theirs and the Mediterranean’s. Yet – although one could argue for Albert Camus’s use of “the new Mediterranean” as social critique as originary to the field – the Mediterranean in itself, especially the MedievalMediterranean, representing a core method of analysis, whether historical or otherwise, is a fairly recent endeavor. Nevertheless, the field of Medieval MediterraneanStudies is rapidly expanding, no doubt fueled by the political dynamics of the present and the extensive transformations of the postwar “boundaries,” institutions, and social situations of the Mediterranean. Fernand Braudel’s classic, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Phillip II, published in 1966, in method dips into the ancient to complement discussion of the early modern, and in thesis resoundingly echoes Hegel. Responding to / affirming Braudel, but also hoping to reignite the Mediterranean as an historical objet petit afor the twenty-first century, Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell’sThe Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History, published in 2000, digs through the anthropology of the “great sea” or “pond,” crucially framing the debate by way of a critical [post-Nietzschean and post-Foucauldian] geo-genealogy of the Mediterranean. The Brill series, as it launched in 1993, has attempted this hermeneutical preservation of the Medieval Mediterranean.

Built off this legacy, studies of the western Mediterranean in Graeco-Roman antiquity have traditionally emphasized political and cultural interaction, often seen as deriving from intense long- and short-distance economic connectivity. Recent work has applied network theory productively to developing our understanding of such processes (e.g. Ian Rutherford, “Network theory and theoric networks,” Mediterranean Historical Review, 2007), providing models for thinking about Mediterranean connectivity on which our series seeks to draw. As a consequence of the posited unity of the Classical world, Roman political and military domination of the Mediterranean basin is frequently viewed as cause and/or effect (sometimes both) of economic and fiscal integration. The breakdown of the Western Roman Empire over the course of the fifth century is thus viewed as resulting in the increasing atomization of the western Mediterranean into successor (“barbarian”) kingdoms that were often at odds with one another and with the Byzantine Empire. The overall trend within such work is therefore to chart a move from Graeco-Roman contact (often creative) to post-Roman conflict (often violent). This series seeks to move beyond such reductive interpretive frameworks and to judge the Mediterranean worlds of the post-Roman period, alongside the individuals and communities that made up such worlds, on their own terms rather than in relation to what went before and/or afterwards.

This is not to deny the widespread economic, social, and political changes that resulted from the breakdown of Roman hegemony in the West (e.g. Bryan Ward-Perkins, The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilization, 2006), rather to admit that imperial power was itself based on a wide-range of highly coercive practices. It is clear, in addition, that trade, religious travel, and military expeditions, for instance, all continued unabated across the supposed threshold of the late-fifth century, and that such phenomena occurred within and between regions, as well as with the Greek East, albeit often on a reduced scale. Similarly, letters and other literary and documentary sources emphasize the high value that individuals and communities placed on maintaining short-, medium- and long-distance contacts.

In moving beyond the paradigm of “dark age” rupture and discontinuity, and of endemic inter-religious conflict, this Gracchi series builds on studies that have contextualized the lives of individuals (e.g. Maribel Dietz, Wandering Monks, Virgins, and Pilgrims: Ascetic Travel in the Mediterranean World, A.D. 400-800, 2005; and Nikolas Jaspert’s more recent work on merchants and mercenaries as cultural brokers), communities, and institutions (e.g. Robin Vose, Dominicans, Muslims and Jews in the Medieval Crown of Aragon, 2009) in the medieval western Mediterranean. We would also welcome studies that consider the concerted efforts of some polities to set up western Mediterranean “empires” in the post-Roman (e.g. Theoderic the Ostrogoth and, to a lesser extent, the Vandals) and late medieval periods (e.g. the kingdom of Aragon).

Ancient historians, especially those working on ancient Greece, have for a long time focused on islands as drivers for connectivity and political, religious, and cultural integration. Likewise, a strong strand within modern colonial studies is to consider islands (e.g. in the Indian Ocean) as sites in which imperial regimes and subject populations come into creative contact (even if refracted through highly asymmetrical power relations). Study of the Medieval Mediterranean, both eastern and western, lags behind in this area, with some notable exceptions (e.g. Alex Metcalfe’s work on Sicily and studies of crusade-era Cyprus). Studies of islands, either individually, as networks, or in contact with other geographical locations, would be particularly suited to the focused format of this series. Similarly, there is room for more studies – comparative and otherwise – at the regional and sub-regional level, an increasing trend in archaeological scholarship on post-Roman Italy, Spain, and Portugal, for example.

In the broader field of Mediterranean Studies, the study of Islam generally occupies two main spaces: as an addendum to scholarly works primarily focused on Western Europe or Byzantium from the 6th to 15thcenturies; or in studies of the Ottoman, Early Modern, or Modern era. Thus, there is a dearth of accessible scholarly work that focuses on Islam as an integral part of the Mediterranean World in the pre-modern period. This series aims to fill the current lacuna by prioritizing comparative and theoretical and cultural studies on the Islamic Mediterranean from the period after the rise of Islam through the 15th century.

In spite of Islamic imperialism being materially and culturally rooted in the eastern Mediterranean world (Umayyad Syria and the Levant broadly speaking), and despite the lasting presence of Muslims in southern Europe and the Mediterranean, the bulk of medieval historical surveys which do include Islamic history or culture tend to do so under the relatively limited and constraining rubrics of “encounter” or “conflict,” both of which conceptually reaffirm the notion of Islam as foreign rather than indigenous to the Mediterranean World in the Middle Ages. Elsewhere, surveys on intellectual history tend to focus on universally known figures such as Maimonides (e.g. Sarah Stroumsa’s Maimonides in His World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker, 2011).Further, much contemporary scholarship on the formative period of Islamic history focuses on the foundations of political Islam, the era of Islamic Conquest, or the history of the Caliphate after it was established in Baghdad. As a result, these works focus on military, administrative, or general political history, whereas the development of Islamic culture in the Mediterranean, outside of the so-called “central” lands of Islam (meaning the Middle East/North Africa region) tends to be under-emphasized.

This series, by contrast, aims to help re-orient the perspective of accessible scholarship toward the other, multiple centers of Islamic culture and life, focusing on the material, social, and intellectual culture of Muslims in, for example, medieval Egypt, Spain, Italy, and Cyprus. Further, a focus on comparative and theoretical studies in several of the proposed volumes provides the opportunity to critically address modes of knowledge production in the pre-modern Islamic world, including science, medicine, theology, art/architecture, and mysticism.

Among the few exceptions to the parameters of the field as just described is Brill’s Medieval Mediterranean series. That series, while excellent and quite well established, nonetheless leans heavily toward Western Europe or Byzantium, with very few contributions, over the last decade for example, that focus directly on the Islamic Mediterranean. The I.B. Taurus series on The Islamic Mediterranean is almost exclusively focused on a much later period than the one proposed here. Finally, to date, only one peer-reviewed journal of note, Al-Masaq, is dedicated to publishing articles on Islam in the Mediterranean from the 8th-15th centuries.

A notable monograph which is an example of the kind of scholarship with which we would be in dialogue is The Mercenary Mediterranean: Sovereignty, Religion, and Violence in the Medieval Crown of Aragon, by Hussein Fancy, published in 2016 by the University of Chicago Press. That work is a study of how Christian kings of Aragon recruited thousands of foreign Muslim soldiers to serve in their armies and as members of their courts. Based on extensive research in Arabic, Latin, and Romance sources, Fancy’s work reconsiders the relation of medieval religion to politics, and demonstrates how many contemporary assumptions about that relationship have impeded our understanding of both past and present.

By contrast, for the Early Modern and Modern periods, the study of the Islamic Mediterranean is an incredibly vibrant field. Works such as Robert C. Davis’s Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters: White Slavery in the Mediterranean, The Barbary Coast, and Italy, 1500-1800 (Palgrave, 2003) and collaborative anthologies by scholars of history, literature, and architecture such as The Architecture and Memory of the Minority Quarter in the Muslim Mediterranean City, edited by Susan Gilson Miller and Mauro Bertagnin (Harvard, 2010), as well as transnational studies such as Molly Green’s A Shared World: Christians and Muslims in the Early Modern Mediterranean (Princeton, 2002), exemplify the kind of work we wish to cultivate for the earlier, pre-modern period.

The Medieval Mediterranean is fertile ground calling out urgently not only for innovative research but also alternative forms of publication – such as this short-form OA – that can keep up with the rapid advancement in the field. Medieval Mediterranean Studies draws from a diverse range of knowledges, forms of scholarly interrogation, modes of representation, and comparative interests. It is a dynamic category by which to lead a series. Similar to the development of the field of Late Antiquity, the interpretive framework of Medieval Mediterranean provides the opportunity for scholars to re-think previous boundaries and borders, whether social, cultural, political or academic. The Medieval Mediterranean continues to (re-)emerge as an avant-garde historical category and interpretive object which helps students, scholars, and the public deconstruct one-dimensional logics that were unable to properly grasp and represent the Mediterranean’s complexities.

The Medieval Mediterranean also helps alleviate “Western”-centric and Orientalist conceptions of the past, and present, restructuring prevailing and opening new discourses that are relevant as much to the scholar as to wider society. The study of the medieval Mediterranean demands extensive dialogue between scholars of different linguistic, religious, and institutional backgrounds, and requires the creation of historical methods able to grasp the meeting of three continents, multiple religions, vibrant ancient and late ancient social forms and their adaptions, collective memories and collective traumas, multi-layered landscapes and topographies, and what all that may have meant then and may mean now.This series provides a superb platform for dedication to such a field of enquiry.

Furthermore, reaching across the humanities and social sciences, the Medieval Mediterranean series is international and cross-disciplinary and will be of interest to a variety of audiences. The publications of the Medieval Mediterranean series will be useful for students and for scholarly research of the period, its past, and its uses today, as well as to teachers and lecturers in the classroom and members of the public interested in an array of pre-Modern topics, from the fall of the Roman Empire, to the Crusades, to comparative postcolonialisms, to the history of gender, the historical relationship between regions and religions, the development of material and intellectual networks, renaissances, and so on.