Al Andalus

Al-Andalus, also known as Moorish Iberia or Islamic Iberia, was a medieval Muslim state occupying at its peak most of what are today Spain, Portugal, Andorra, and part of southern France. The name more generally describes parts of the Iberian Peninsula and Septimania governed by Muslims (given the generic name of Moors) at various times between 711 and 1492, though the boundaries changed constantly in wars with Christian kingdoms.

Following the Muslim conquest of Hispania, Al-Andalus was divided into five administrative units, corresponding roughly to modern Andalusia, Galicia and Portugal, Castile and León, Aragon, county of Barcelona and Septimania. As a political domain, it successively constituted a province of the Umayyad Caliphate, initiated by the Caliph Al-Walid I (711–750); the Emirate of Córdoba (c. 750–929); the Caliphate of Córdoba (929–1031); and the Caliphate of Córdoba’s taifa (successor) kingdoms. Rule under these kingdoms saw a rise in cultural exchange and cooperation between Muslims and Christians, with Christians and Jews considered as protected people who paid a tax to the state but enjoyed “internal autonomy’. It is noted that under the Caliphate of Córdoba, al-Andalus was a beacon of learning, and the city of Córdoba became one of the leading cultural and economic centres in both the Mediterranean Basin and the Islamic world.

For much of its history, Al-Andalus existed in conflict with Christian kingdoms to the north. After the fall of the Umayyad Andalusian kingdom, Al-Andalus was fragmented into a number of minor states and principalities, most notably the Emirate of Granada. Attacks from the Christian Castillians intensified, led by Alfonso VI. The Almoravid empire intervened and repelled the Christian attacks on the region, deposing the weak Andalusian Muslim princes and including Al-Andalus under direct Berber rule. In succeeding centuries, Al-Andalus became a province of the Berber Muslim empires of the Almoravids and Almohads, both based in Marrakesh. A tenth century German nun, Hroswitha, described Islamic Cordoba as the “Ornament of the World”.

The course will address the rise and fall of the Muslim Civilisation in Spain. What did Muslims achieve in Al-Andalus? Is the notion of “Islamic Golden Age” a myth? Did Muslims treat non-Muslims (Jews and Christians) well? What caused the rise of the Muslim Civilisation in Spain? What caused the decline? What exactly constituted “Muslim Civilisation” in Spain? What exactly was achieved by the Muslims in education and politics? What changed once the Muslims departed from Spain? What was the global impact of the loss of Spain? These are some of the questions addressed in the course. This course will cover the history of Muslim Spain from the period 711 – 1492.

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