Towns and Material Culture in the Medieval Middle East

Towns and Material Culture in the Medieval Middle East

Towns and Material Culture in the Medieval Middle East

Towns and Material Culture in the Medieval Middle East

Synopsis

This volume focuses on the interplay between urban society and material culture in the medieval and Ottoman Middle East. The history of Jerusalem in the middle ages is discussed by a number of papers as well as Mamluk Tripoli and the urban history of Palestine during the Crusades. The multi-role of the cadi in the Muslim city is illuminated by two studies cases concerning the Fatimid and Mamluk periods. Three aspects of material culture; the production and spread of paper, textiles and the trade in medicinal substances also are dealt with.

Excerpt

This book is the outgrowth of a conference on the history of the medieval and modern Middle East, held 29 June 1999 at Bar-Ilan University. A wide range of topics was discussed at the conference, but in this collection of essays the focus is on the history of towns, urban society, and material culture.

The interplay between a town's physical setting and its social and cultural values is at the heart of Nimrod Luz's discussion of Mamluk Tripoli. He adopts a wide approach to the subject, trying to assess the relative importance of the Islamic component versus the local culture in shaping the urban and social essence of Mamluk Tripoli. Yehoshua Frenkel and Yaacov Lev deal with a similar topic or, more precisely, with a certain aspect of the socio-religious make up of Islamic urban society: the role of the cadi. Frenkel points out that the cadi functioned also as a social moderator and that the scope of the cadi's court extended beyond legal and religious matters. Lev focuses on the administrative and financial responsibilities of the cadi. The role of the cadi in urban society was complex, marked by contradictions. On the one hand, he did not have exclusive judicial authority; the chief of police and the supervisor of the markets, who also wielded judicial powers, circumscribed his authority. On the other hand, as administrator and social mediator, he had a considerable impact on the urban life, despite the encroachment of other officials on his judicial domain.

Jerusalem and Palestine at the time of the Crusades are at the focus of three essays in this volume—by Shimon Gat, Dan Bahat, and Michael Ehrlich. Gat has embarked on an ambitious task, redefining the history of Jerusalem and its population under the Seljukid rule. While relying on the work of Moshe Gil and the many Geniza documents published by him, Gat reinterprets them, concluding that the period of Seljukid rule was not as bleak has been described. In Gat's view, many scholars have followed rather uncritically the sources and have exaggerated the amount of destruction attributed to the Seljuks. Along with the studies of Jean-Michel Mouton and Taef Kamal el-Azhari, Gat's work constitutes an important contribution to the history of eleventh-century Syria and Palestine.

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