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The Muslim World as the Crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe


Admission requirements

This course is part of the (Res)MA History Programme. It is not accessible for BA students.


Rather than as a “civilisation” this course will look at the Muslim world as a crossroads: an open-ended space that shared many ideas and developments with the adjacent areas and functioned as a hub for the exchange of goods, crops, and ideas because of its central position in the Eurafrasian landmass. From the beginning of Islam till the present day the Muslim world has absorbed, transformed, and exported ideas from and to non-Muslim regions.

Through the important works that the course presents the aim is to move beyond the debates on the heritage of civilisations (who invented what and who was ahead) to a perception of Eurafrasia as a dynamic system of the movement of people, goods and ideas in which we can detect parallel developments in different places at the same time.

The period from the time when we can start to speak of a Muslim world up until the present era in which that world is ceasing to be a space that can be delineated on a map, is rather long. Therefore we will focus on a few moments that are by now somewhat well-studied and analysed, viz. the exchanges of crops and ideas in the “golden age,” the centuries of Muslim predominance in Eurafrasian trade, the striking parallels in thinking about such diverse things as the relation between trade and prosperity, the end of time and love in age of the gunpowder empires, and finally the confrontation with hegemonic European ideas about territoriality and religion.
All these studies of interaction, movement and commonality work to destabilise such shorthand concepts as “the Muslim world.”

Course objectives

General learning objectives

The student has acquired:

  1. The ability to analyse and evaluate literature with a view to addressing a particular historical problem;
  2. The ability to give a clear and well-founded oral and written report on research results in correct English, when required, or Dutch, meeting the criteria of the discipline;
  3. The ability to provide constructive feedback to and formulate criticism of the work of others and the ability to evaluate the value of such criticism and feedback on one’s own work and incorporate it;
  4. The ability to participate in current debates in the specialisation;
  5. (ResMA only): The ability to participate in a discussion of the theoretical foundations of the discipline.

Learning objectives, pertaining to the specialisation

  1. Thorough knowledge and comprehension of one of the specialisations or subspecialisations as well as of the historiography of the specialisation, focusing particularly on the following;
    • in the specialisation Colonial and Global History: how global (political, socio-economic, and cultural) connections interact with regional processes of identity and state formation; hence insight in cross-cultural processes (including the infrastructure of shipping and other modes of communication) that affect regions across the world such as imperialism, colonisation, islamisation, modernisation and globalisation (in particular during the period 1200-1940);
  2. (ResMA only): Thorough knowledge and comprehension of the theoretical foundation of the discipline and of its position vis-à-vis other disciplines.

Learning objectives, pertaining to this Literature Seminar

The student:

  1. Has acquired the ability to deconstruct the concept of “civilization,” in particular that of “the Islamic civilization”;
  2. Has gained an appreciation of the range of possibilities that the history of the Muslim world offers for doing connective and comparative world history.


The timetable is available on the MA History website.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load 10 EC x 28 hours= 280 hours

  • Seminar attendance (seven sessions of two hours of intensive discussion each,
    and one individual meeting to discuss the final paper): 15 hours

  • Six AQCI assignments: 18 hours

  • Preparing oral presentations: 7 hours

  • Reading literature and writing term paper: 240 hours

Assessment method

  • Review essay (review of two of the assigned books/one book and two articles, 2000 words)
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4, 6, 8, 9 (ResMA also: 5 and 7)

  • AQCI Assignments
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4, 6, 8, 9 (ResMA also: 5 and 7)

  • Oral Presentation
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4 (ResMA also: 5)

  • Discussant
    Measured learning objectives: 1-4 (ResMA also: 5)


Review paper/essay: 40%
Weekly assignments: 40%
Oral presentation: 10%
Class participation and role as discussant: 10%

The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average with the additional requirement that the written paper must always be sufficient.


Should the overall mark be unsatisfactory, the paper is to be revised after consultation with the instructor.


Blackboard will be used for: - Course information

  • Course materials

  • Submitting assignments

Reading list

  • Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization (Chicago, 1974 and reprints), vol. 1 pp. 22-69 and vol. 2 entire

  • Andrew M. Watson, The Arab Agricultural Revolution and Its Diffusion, 700-1100, The Journal of Economic History 34, No. 1 (Mar., 1974), pp. 8-35

  • Michael Decker, Plants and Progress: Rethinking the Islamic Agricultural Revolution, Journal of World History 20 (2009), pp. 187-206

  • Dimitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture: The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early ‘Abbāsid Society (2nd-4th/8th-10th Centuries) (London, 1998)

  • Janet L. Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350 (Oxford, 1989)

  • Sanjay Subrahmanyam, From the Tagus to the Ganges. Explorations in Connected History (Delhi, 2005) chapters 3 and 5

  • Walter G. Andrews and Mehmet Kalpaklı, The Age of Beloveds: Love and the Beloved in Early-Modern Ottoman and European Culture and Society (Durham, 2005)

  • Engseng Ho, The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility across the Indian Ocean (Berkeley, 2006)

  • Nile Green, Terrains of Exchange: Religious Economies of Global Islam (Oxford, 2015)


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • Until 1 september 2016: dr. Gijs Kruijtzer

  • After 1 september 2016 dr. Kruijtzer will have an e-mail adress from Leiden University.
    This address will be published here as soon as it is available.