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Culture and Society in the Medieval Muslim World


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) is required.

If you are interested in taking this course but you are not a student of one of the above-mentioned MA programmes, please contact the Coordinator of Studies or Dr. J. Bruning prior to registration.


This course will examine the daily life experience of medieval Muslims through literary, documentary and archaeological sources. This year, the focus of the course will be on the economic history of the eastern Mediterranean in the first centuries of Islamic history. The course has on two regional foci: Egypt and ‘Greater Mesopotamia’ between ca. 640 and 1000 CE. Engaging with original documents, contemporary literature and archaeology, we will treat such topics as the impact of state formation on the Near East’s economies, the social and legal organisation of trade, and the development of interregional commercial networks. The course has two connected goals: to deepen the student’s knowledge and experience of the social and economic history of medieval Islam and to familiarise him/her with the written sources of this period. These two academic goals are joined in the work with primary sources, such as coins, documents, manuscripts and inscriptions, which is central to this course.

Course objectives

The objectives of this course are:

  • to become thoroughly acquainted with the historical debate on the social history of medieval Islam;

  • to allow students to develop a strong and detailed understanding of the pertinent primary and secondary sources;

  • to familiarise students with theoretical approaches to the theme and to become acquainted with the tools needed to understand the primary sources (coins, documents, manuscripts) relevant to the study of this period;

  • to help students develop the ability to critically assess prevailing approaches to the subjects covered;

  • to carry out a small research project on a well-defined topic, based on primary source texts;

  • to report on research findings orally (by reading a paper) and in writing, in accordance with the basic standards of historical scholarship.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The conveners need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Oral presentation 15%
Participation and assignments 15%
Paper theme 1 (written; ca. 2,500 words) 35%
Paper theme 2 (written; ca. 2,500 words) 35%

The papers are assessed on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Demonstration of knowledge and the use of primary and secondary literature;

  • Presentation and consistency of arguments;

  • Communication: number of words, language, lay-out.

The papers are written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. The deadlines for submission of the first and final versions of the papers will be communicated by the convenor of the course through Brightspace.
Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hrs late = -0.5; 24-48 hrs late = -1.0; 48-72 hrs late = -1.5; 72-96 hrs late = -2.0. Late papers will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends and will be graded with 1.0.
The weighted average forms the final mark for this course. In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (= 6) or higher. The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.


Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of one or two insufficient papers, students are allowed to rewrite one or two papers (70%) in consultation with the convenor of the course. In that case the convener of the course will give a new deadline. A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.

Exam review

If a student requests in writing a review of his/her examination answer script within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Students should sign up before the first class on Brightspace for this course where the reading and assignment for the first class can be found. Students should bring their completed assignment to class.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.