HIS2012 : Clash of Civilizations: Islam, the Crusades, and the Mongol invasions (c. 750-1300)

  • Module Leader(s): Dr Nicola Clarke
  • Owning School: History, Classics and Archaeology
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


In the year 750, the ‘Abb?sid family swept to power in the Islamic world on the back of a wave of social and political unrest. The first four weeks of this module will explore the political and cultural history of the ‘Abb?sid caliphate during the heyday of Baghdad, before turning to look at the waning of the regime’s authority during the ninth and tenth centuries. This decline created space in which a profusion of regional dynasties could flourish, breaking apart what had once been a unified Muslim empire stretching from Spain to India. The de-centring of political power was accompanied – or perhaps hastened – by the devolution of religious authority to a broad class of legal scholars, whose services were in turn courted by the new dynasties. The result was a crystallisation of multiple competing and overlapping Islams, most obviously the Shi’ism of the Fatimid caliphs in Egypt, and the Sunnism of the Seljuk sultans in Iraq and Syria.

Into this divided world came invaders from both east and west. The Crusaders conquered Jerusalem in 1099 and occupied parts of the Near East until 1291; the Mongols spent the second quarter of the thirteenth century devastating Central Asia and bringing an ignominious end to the golden age of Baghdad, before settling down to rule large parts of the Islamic world.

The bulk of this module (from week 5 onwards) will examine the political, religious and social impact of these two invasions on the central Islamic lands: what collapsed, what changed, and how Islam coped in the face of significant threats to both its survival and its worldview. Particular attention will be paid to the re-configuration of networks of intellectual and economic exchange, the experiences of Muslims under non-Muslim rule, how individuals like Saladin could make careers out of the instability, and the institutions, structures and practices that fostered social and cultural continuity amidst sweeping political change. Seminar discussion will be centred on short passages from primary sources in translation – including the travel writing of Ibn Jubayr, the memoirs of Usama ibn Munqidh, and Rashid al-Din’s biography of Ghazan Khan, a Mongol convert to Islam – to give students a chance to hear voices from the period whenever possible.

Outline Of Syllabus

The course will survey the history of Islam in the Near and Middle East between the ‘Abb?sid ‘revolution’ in 750 and the end of the Crusader states, with the fall of Acre in 1291.

Topics may include the following:

2.The ‘Abb?sid caliphate: from Revolution to Golden Age
3.'Abb?sid decline and the successor states
4.Islamic religious identity and the Sunni/Shi’i divide
5.The First Crusade
6.Responses to conquest and life in the Crusader states
7.‘Moral rearmament’: preaching, teaching and building in the 12th century
8.The career of Saladin
9.Genghis Khan and his successors
10.Living with the Mongols: Juvayni, Rashid al-Din and Ibn Taymiyya
11.War, slavery and society in the Mamluk sultanate

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion661:0066:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading661:0066:0040% of guided independent study
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00Seminars
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study321:0032:0020% of guided independent study
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures impart core knowledge and an outline of knowledge that students are expected to acquire; they stimulate development of listening and note-taking skills.

Seminars encourage independent study and promote improvements in oral communication, problem-solving skills and adaptability. They allow students to develop and test their own ideas within the framework of understanding offered by the lectures.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written Examination1351A75N/A
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M252,000 words (including footnotes but excluding bibliography)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The exam tests acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem quickly, to select from and to apply both the general knowledge and detailed knowledge of aspects of the subject to new questions, problem-solving skills, adaptability, the ability to work unaided, and to write clearly and concisely.

Essays test acquisition of a clear general knowledge of the subject plus the ability to think and analyse a problem in detail, problem-solving skills, the ability to work unaided and to use references and write clearly and concisely. Also, the ability to compare and contrast related primary and secondary sources on a common subject is key.

The form of the resit is no different from the above, i.e. no marks are carried over from the sit to the resit. Students are not allowed to submit for the resit any work that they have previously submitted.

Submitted work tests intended knowledge and skills outcomes, develops key skills in research, reading and writing.

All exchange students at Newcastle University including Erasmus, study-abroad, exchange proper and Loyola are warmly encouraged to do the same assessment as the domestic students unless they have compelling reasons not to do so. If this is the case, they are offered the option of writing one 3,000 word essay to be handed in by 12.00 p.m. of the Friday of the first week of the assessment period. This will replace all assessment work required of domestic students. If they wish to take up this option, students need to discuss it with their module leader, having checked with their home university that the new assessment will be accepted by them.

Students who opt for the alternative assessment because they will have to leave Newcastle University before the assessment period (excluding Erasmus students, who are contractually obliged to be at Newcastle until the end of the semester) should hand in their 3000-word essays before they go away. If this is not possible, they should tell the School exchange coordinator that they are going to submit their essays in absentia, then submit their essays through Blackboard and email copies of the essays to the School Office (historical@ncl.ac.uk). Any essay received after the deadline will be considered as a late submission.

Reading Lists


Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.