The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate: Ifrīqiyā and Its Andalusis, 1200-1400

The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate: Ifrīqiyā and Its Andalusis, 1200-1400

The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate: Ifrīqiyā and Its Andalusis, 1200-1400

The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate: Ifrīqiyā and Its Andalusis, 1200-1400


The thirteenth century marks a turning point in the history of the western Mediterranean. The armies of Castile and Aragon won significant and decisive victories over Muslims in Iberia and took over a number of important cities including Cordoba, Seville, Jaen, and Murcia. Chased out of their native cities, a large number of Andalusis migrated to Ifrīqiyā in northern Africa. There, a newly founded Hafsid dynasty (1229-1574) welcomed members of the Andalusi elite and showered them with honors and high positions at court.

While historians have tended to conceive of Ifrīqiyā as a region ruled by the Hafsids, Ramzi Rouighi argues in The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate that the Andalusis who joined the Hafsid court supported economic arrangements and political relationships that effectively prevented regional integration from taking place during this period. Rouighi examines an array of documentary, literary, and legal sources to argue that Ifrīqiyā was integrated neither politically nor economically and that, consequently, it was not a region in a meaningful sense. Through a close reading of narrative sources, especially historical chronicles, Rouighi further argues that the emergence in the late fourteenth century of the political ideology of Emirism accounts for the representation of the rule of the Hafsid dynasty over cities as its rule over the whole of Ifrīqiyā. Setting the activities of Andalusis such as the celebrated historian Ibn Khaldūn (1332-1406) in relation to specific political, economic, and intellectual developments in Ifrīqiyā, The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate proposes a counter to the dynastic-centric view of the period that pervades medieval sources and continues to inform most modern generalizations about the Maghrib and the Mediterranean.


Any book about medieval North Africa, and this one is no exception, confronts at least two sets of related problems from the outset. First, the prevailing modes of scholarly interpretation incorporate multiple layers of conceptual difficulties. Second, so do the historical sources. In both cases, the issues are often connected but not always in the same way, with the same effect, or for the same reasons. All historians who confront the relationship between their own notions and those of the sources they seek to elucidate share these two problems. However, when it comes to the study of medieval North Africa, modern history has engendered such entanglements that it has become very difficult to explain all the intricacies and complexities involved. Even specialists, who have studied the matter closely, may find that with all the critiques and the counter-critiques it has become difficult to trust one’s bearings. My starting point in this book is that it is simply not possible to discuss medieval North Africa without also discussing its representations in both medieval and modern writings, and throughout this book, I will shuttle back and forth between them. Where, however, does one begin?

A convenient entry point into medieval North African history and its problems is the notion of region, which draws together empirical and conceptual questions. The notion of region combines both because it is at once a context, a container for meaning, and a means by which contextualization becomes possible. Consequently, a study of the making of a region involves paying attention simultaneously to social relations and ideas about them.

Consider, for instance, the notion of North Africa itself. Ostensibly, it is a neutral spatial category, a geographic entity, the area situated between the Sahara desert, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. Yet it is also a specifically modern category, remade in the process of imposing French . . .

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