History 171: History of Islamic Civilization I – Origins to 1500

This course surveys the political, social, and cultural history of the Islamic World from the 7th to 15th centuries, with particular attention paid to the diverse geographical and cultural contexts in which pre-modern Islamic civilization flourished. Topics include the origins of Islam in late Antiquity; the development of Islamic religious, political, and cultural institutions; the flourishing of medieval Islamic education, science, and literature; the tension among state, ethnic, sectarian, and global Muslim identities; and the emergence of a distinctly Muslim approach to historiography.

Students in the course combined the traditional tools of historical inquiry with computational tools to explore, picture and develop new insights into the political, social, and cultural history of the transmission of early Islamic law. Practically, this meant students undertook close readings of primary sources and critical review of secondary literature while also mining data, creating a database, and using on-line visualization software.
Joel Blecher, Fall 2014