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date: 27 May 2018

Interactions between North Africa and Spain: Medieval and Early Modern

Summary and Keywords

Arabic-speaking Muslim polities existed in medieval Spain and Portugal where they were superseded by Christian empires that gradually disavowed cultural connections to this past. Hebrew and Arabic were largely expurgated from homes and libraries. Jews and Muslims who refused to convert were expelled. And while an incipient study of that past existed, echoed even in popular literary forms, the need to disavow kinship prevailed, at least publicly and officially. The Maghrib, for its part, separated by a mere fourteen kilometers of sea from the southern tip of Spain, experienced Portuguese and Spanish imperial expansion firsthand, receiving the bulk of the displaced and interacting with fortified settlements and encroachments along the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. Later European colonization of North Africa completed the galvanization of a Maghribi culture of resistance to and disavowal of European, Latin, and Christian cultural forms and connections. Spain and North Africa came to be conceived as separate worlds; domains of inimical faiths; divided by culture, language, religion, and a history of mutual hostility. This sense of separateness is deceptive, however, as the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa are bound by deep and extensive commercial, material, and cultural contacts. They share inextricable histories in which alternating movements of commerce, conflict, and migration have played fundamental roles in shaping recognizably Western Mediterranean societies. They should be thought of as areas of a unified region with a common culture, or at the very least, as areas sharing a common region, in which they interact regularly, creating extensive ties and parallel forms of cultural and social organization.

Keywords: Mediterranean, Iberian Peninsula, Maghrib/North Africa, trade, interaction between Muslims, Jews, and Christians, religious refugees

The Mediterranean: A Binding Force for Cultural Transmission

The Mediterranean Sea is a space that has been characterized, since antiquity, by regular human movement and material and commercial exchange. The relative ease with which the sea is navigated connects ports that have access to a wide variety of regional climates, including the microclimates associated with mountainous topography. This network of regional climates and settlements provides a clear and constant means and incentive for trade.1 The dynamics of this movement and exchange constitute a long-term historical structure affecting all parts of the Mediterranean (in differing ways, as the sea itself is made up of smaller seas, such as the Sea of Alborán or the Adriatic, each with their own character).2 The fact that North Africa, or the Maghrib,3 occupies much of the shoreline of the southern Mediterranean and features several significant ports and port cities has meant that Mediterranean exchange has had a profound influence on the region; it constitutes a key, long-term historical structure with elements that run deeper than the changes and life spans associated with political entities, such as empires and kingdoms; and even those associated with religious movements and religious institutions. It persists through dynastic and regime change, imperial expansion and demise, and the rise and fall of religious movements. These shorter-term transformations develop along the lines created by the deeper structure of Mediterranean exchange.

This observation is particularly important for the subject of this article, since religio-political division characterized medieval relations between the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean.4 From a European perspective, the deleterious effects of this division has long posed an object of fascination and concern, construed from a perspective formed by a Latin Christian salvation grand narrative and later by the "civilizing" narratives of European colonialism. The nature of the division was understood as totalizing: an enemy religion conquered the southern shores of what was once a united Christian sea; a chasm separated the two societies and their cultures.5 The very notion of the European Middle Ages is defined by the religious and political divorce of the northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean and the movement of the Latin West’s cultural center from Rome, inland and northward (first to Aix-la-Chapelle, then to cities like Paris and Vienna). The origins, nature, and effect of this separation have played dominant roles in narratives about European identity and history, in both literary and historiographical traditions in which “Moors” and “Saracens” feature prominently as civilizational adversaries and opposites. The fact that a Mediterranean, once united under a culture understood to be at the origins of the West, gave way to a divided sea, has posed a persistent question that informs Europe’s sense of self as a political and cultural entity. A question about the nature of this dividedness, as the title of this article evokes, touches on that sense of identity and the process of its formation.6

From a North African perspective, the question of the antique and medieval past may not appear as fraught, on account of the triumphant character of medieval Arabic culture and Islam. From the end of the 15th century, however, the Muslim and African Mediterranean experienced a series of existential challenges, the most significant of which were seen to emerge from Western Europe—including the fall of Granada, the French occupation of Algeria, and the ensuing colonization of North Africa (including Egypt) by France, Britain, Italy, and Spain.7 European colonialism eventually gave way to anti-colonial movements predicated on the rise of national movements of liberation and the consolidation of distinct national identities, based on the rupture of ties of subjugation between northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. Maghribi national independence narratives would reinforce ideas of the cultural separateness of the Maghrib from Spain, France, and Italy.8

The topic of the nature of North African relations to the Iberian Peninsula from the medieval to the early modern period is complex, not only because the time period is vast and the two places are deeply interconnected, but because the question conjures the ghosts and echoes of the long and convulsive process sketched above with its competing narratives.9 It poses the question of how to characterize relations between areas that have alternated between political unity and profound enmity and whether such episodes affected material relations in the way we are accustomed to think. Added to this is the complication that the sources for the material and commercial history of exchange between North Africa and Spain for the medieval and early modern period are difficult to quantify and read. The political and religious histories, on the other hand, dominate the narrative, with the result that periods of political unity, when a single religio-political entity ruled both sides of the strait—such as the Roman or early Islamic periods—are mistakenly understood as having been the most important in terms of trade and exchange. Several significant studies over the past few decades have demonstrated that, by the end of the medieval period when religio-political enmity was at its highest, commercial exchange was more robust than it had been in the past.10 The fact that adversarial and religiously identified polities came to dominate the region in the late medieval and early modern period does not mean that exchange and movement ceased or lessened accordingly. For one, the appearance and gradual consolidation of power on the Iberian Peninsula by Christian kingdoms was accompanied by a very significant population movement between Iberia and North Africa, with lasting impact. Furthermore, the nature of the relationship between Muslim and Christian regimes, while varied, even when inimical, involved negotiation, reciprocity, and mirroring (competing over legitimacy using shared and borrowed strategies pursuing the same end).11 We should think rather of the exchange and trade between North Africa and Iberia as constant and growing with the increase in population in both areas, although its character certainly evolved as borders moved and forms of exchanged shifted from legal to illegal, peaceful to bellicose, and back. The terms of description and engagement evolved while the flow of people and material, in the long view, persisted.

Major Trends

The North African Littoral and its populations are part of a space characterized by regular movement and communication with other parts of the Mediterranean (South and Southeast Spain being one of the closest and most important in this interaction), and the dynamics of this exchange played a fundamental role in the formation of North African societies and material culture. The Phoenician and Roman shared pasts of both shores, as well as their Christianization, illustrates this relationship. A series of population movements in Late Antiquity changed the Western Mediterranean, beginning with the Germanic invasions of Iberia and North Africa in the 5th and 6th centuries, followed by the Arab conquests in the 7th and 8th. The new linguistic element presented by Arabic would prove to be of lasting influence. While creating a division in culture and communication with the Latin West, Arabic created a conduit (of knowledge, technology, and literature) with the broader Islamicate world through the Maghrib to Iberia and Europe. The diffusion of Arabic into North Africa from the east did not take place all at once in the 7th and 8th centuries. Later waves of Arabic speakers moved into the region from the 11th to the 14th centuries. Arabization was a long process, and the slow interaction between Berber or Amazigh (the modern term for Berber identity) and Arabic culture would come to define the region culturally and linguistically.12 The new Arabic-speaking group interacted with Maghribi Mediterranean culture and adapted to it.

The medieval Maghrib experienced a long-term increase in trade through the strengthening of commercial activity in its southern and northern frontiers: While commercial contacts and extractive activities in the Sahara had existed since antiquity, trans-Saharan commerce flourished in the Islamic period. With origins in the 9th century, by the middle of the 11th century trans-Saharan trade had expanded dramatically.13 The port cities of the Maghrib, in turn, served as major points of diffusion for the goods of trans-Saharan trade across the Mediterranean and into Europe and the Middle East. At roughly the same time, Europe began to experience what is often referred to as its first revolution: a major economic and demographic expansion that witnessed the rise of new urban centers and centers of learning, such as Paris and Bologna, and found expression in the Mediterranean in the form of military aggression and increased commercial activity. From 1096, this was felt across the Mediterranean, in Constantinople, Palestine, Alexandria, Sicily, and, of course, in the Iberian Peninsula, where most of the important urban centers of the region changed hands, from Muslim to Christian rulers, between 1085 and 1248. Military conflict went hand-in-hand with commerce, and Maghribi trade with Iberian, Southern French, and Italian ports and regions grew unabated. West African gold and other fruits of trans-Saharan commerce featured prominently in this exchange, and Aragonese and Catalan merchants traded very actively in Maghribi cities and established diplomatic ties and trade relations. Important European financial and legal instruments of commerce first appeared.14

The early modern period witnessed the extension of Ottoman power into the Maghrib as far as Algeria along with intense competition with the Spanish-Hapsburg Empire, which established a series of military settlements on the Maghribi Mediterranean coast from the 15th century. Several Maghribi operations and smaller states made a living through piracy and privateering, which included targeting ships coming from the New World. By the 18th century, French merchants had become the most dominant commercial and political force in the Mediterranean. They proved instrumental in France’s move in 1830 to colonize Algeria. Alongside the military-commercial complex that characterized European colonialism elsewhere in the world, there was also a significant population movement southward of Southern European workers (Portuguese, Spanish, Italian, and French) into the cities of the Maghrib (and the countryside, in the case of Algeria).15 This movement was reversed in the second half of the 20th century.

In what follows, several key episodes and characteristics of these complex, vast, and varied population flows and exchanges are discussed, in broad chronological order.

The Medieval Period I: 634–1085

The Arab conquests of the southern Mediterranean littoral, from Syria to Iberia and roughly between the years 634 and 711, brought about a re-ordering of the Mediterranean. In the long term, it led to the creation of a vast geographical area where Arabic emerged as the primary form of literacy. As with many other great writing traditions, Arabic emerged with a religion or ethical-learning tradition and religio-political system of legitimation of its own. This Arab-Islamic tradition emerged gradually as a dominant force with its characteristic institutions and forms of governance and law, distinct from the Greek and Latin areas where Christian and post-classical forms of each remained. Traditional European narratives of this event describe an Arab-Islamic culture and religion entering the Mediterranean and aggressively establishing itself, fully formed. Even traditional Islamic narratives, which characterize the conquests as compassionate, heroic, and redemptive, are largely and surprisingly mute about non-Muslim actors and populations that remained majorities for generations. Careful scrutiny and study in recent years has revealed that Arab-Islamic civilization formed only gradually, that the new language and leadership had to adapt to a different environment and fuse selectively with existing, deeper patterns, and structures.16 This comes from our more nuanced understanding of how societies function and evolve (a community’s stability over generations is based on rich complexity and negotiation, not unilateral force). The Arab-Islamic culture that emerged in Iberia and the Maghrib was not imported, wholesale, but rather was distinctly informed by earlier cultural strata (Berber, Latin, Romance). Its characteristic forms emerged only gradually. These included symbols of religious identity, political legitimation, musical genres, literary forms, and multiple aspects of material culture. The religious identity of the new elite was fluid as were the specificities of their relationship to the non-Arab subject majority. The nature of their political subjection or tributary status was not clearly defined or was formulated piecemeal through local treaties. And local Arab-Islamic power did not fully take root and was not consolidated for several generations.

At the same time, the emergence of Arabic as the new politically and commercially predominant written language across al-Andalus and the Maghrib opened the area up to cultural, commercial, and intellectual contacts with the east, unleashing a powerful force in the region where eastern trends were closely followed. They came from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Persia and the whole wider world with which these areas were in contact, as attested to by the transmission and diffusion of such things as Chinese paper, Indian mathematics, and Greek philosophy. This powerful combination of factors led to the economic development of the Arabic-speaking Western Mediterranean or Islamic West (al-Gharb al-Islamī, as al-Andalus and the Maghrib are referred to in Arabic), exemplified by the rise of urban centers and agrarian-based states centered in Córdoba, Qayrawān, Fez and Mahdia, larger than their counterparts in Latin Europe. In the aftermath of the Arab conquests (Arabo-Berber from an Iberian perspective), a Western Mediterranean, Arabic-writing civilization emerged, distinct from its eastern counterpart because of the cultural and geographical particularities of the Western Mediterranean (including the deep structure of Mediterranean exchange), but open to a set of influences from the eastern and emerging Islamicate world, which would also include Sudanic Africa.

From the conquest of Iberia to the latter half of the 11th century, roughly from 711–1085, all of the major urban centers and their agricultural hinterlands were ruled by Muslim rulers (the one major urban center that fell outside was Barcelona; the Cantabrian or northern coast was also never ruled by Muslim rulers but did not count many significant towns). This meant that the most urbanized and populous areas of the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghrib shared a language of government, commerce, and high culture. The period was a foundational one for the region as a whole, as it witnessed the creation and development of long-standing religio-political traditions that formed the bases on which later dynasties would style themselves. This legacy is visible institutionally, intellectually, and artistically. One key tradition that characterizes the region is one of higher learning, known as the Mālikī Madhhab. Often translated as "school of law" but best understood as something broader than “just” law, Mālikism touches on areas of activity across society—well beyond academic jurisprudence—including ritual practice, the wider curriculum of learning, the content of libraries, and the traditions of administration and political legitimation. Several key architectural and artistic forms and styles also first appeared in this period and would become diffused throughout Iberia and North Africa in later centuries. The Sīdī ʿUqba Mosque in Qayrawān and the Great Mosque of Córdoba stand out as foundational structures in this regard. It can also be said that the bases of an Andalusi-Maghribi literary tradition had been set by 1085, even when some of the region’s most characteristic and original texts and genres would appear later.

Al-Andalus and the Maghrib were not politically unified during this period, however. Conquered by the Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus between 680–711, the far west of the emerging Islamic world was fissiparous and, from as early as 756, proved to be fertile grounds for the appearance of Islamic dynasties inimical to the Abbasid center, embracing theological positions, especially regarding the nature of leadership, at odds with Abbasid caliphal authority. The Midrarids of Sijilmāsa and Ibāḍis of Tāhart are good examples of the small heterodox political communities that appeared (they played key roles in the early development of trans-Saharan trade networks and Islamization). The two most important and powerful challenges to Abbasid power, anywhere, appeared in the Islamic West: the Fāṭimid Imamate in Ifriqīya (modern-day Tunisia) and Egypt and the Umayyad Caliphate of Iberia. Fātimids and Umayyads did not enjoy peaceful relations and a series of conflicts raged between them in Western North Africa, with lasting impact. The descendants of the Umayyad religio-political tradition eventually prevailed. The Fāṭimids, originated in Ifriqīya, tried to expand west but thwarted, moved east, capturing Cairo in 969. While the Umayyads had a foothold in the western Maghrib, the region was ruled by smaller polities. The Maghrib and al-Andalus were rarely unified politically in the Islamic period. There were moments of political union but also a clear a tendency to fragment.

This raises the question of the importance of political and religio-political unity versus other forms of cultural and commercial exchange and the formation of different kinds of communities (of readers, worship, commerce, etc.): Does political unity lead to more vigorous exchange and does religious hostility thwart commercial contact? Is Christian-Muslim enmity greater than intra-Christian or intra-Islamic sectarian politics, such as what existed between Fāṭimids and Umayyads, Almoravids and Almohads?

There is no simple answer to this question. But imagining unified Christian and Islamic blocks, battling each other, should certainly be avoided; sectarian and secular internecine conflict was endemic in Muslim and Christian societies of the Western Mediterranean. Incentives and means for commerce and cooperation between confessional communities and individuals prevailed. To be sure, certain kinds of trends spread more swiftly within religio-linguistic communities, without need for translation. Intellectual commerce across al-Andalus and the Maghrib was vigorous and formative in this period. But the Muslim communities of this region remained plural, with Jewish and Christian communities living within them, speaking and writing combinations of Arabic, Hebrew, Berber, Latin, and Romance. Translation occurred on a daily basis. In this diglossic context of plural jurisdictions, in which individuals spoke more than one language or spoke one and read another, and in which religious communities lived side by side, individuals, sovereigns, and representatives (of faith communities and corporate entities and guilds) had recourse to different registers of speech and writing that could, depending on circumstance, emphasize selectively religious identity or local identity or class status or economic interests.17 This plurality accounts for what can otherwise seem contradictory stances on religion, language, commerce, and politics.

The Medieval Period II: 1085–1492

From 1085, the demographic contours of the Iberian Peninsula began a period of rapid change with direct impact on the Maghrib. The period between 1085 and 1248 witnessed the transfer of power of almost all major urban areas of al-Andalus from Muslim to Christian rulers, as the Romance kingdoms (Catalan, Castilian, Galician) on the northern borders of al-Andalus expanded southward. This change was not only one of political leadership and religion, but also of language and culture.18 Not only Muslims, but also Arabized Christians and Jews who shared their culture, began to be displaced and absorbed by the growing Romance-speaking communities. At the same time, the end of the 11th century was characterized in the western Maghrib by the appearance and growth of urban centers, including Marrakesh, Rabat, and Meknès. This urban transformation of the Far Maghrib had multiple causes, one of the principal of which was the steady flow of migrants displaced from al-Andalus. This is in evidence, even in preexisting urban centers, such as Fez, where Andalusi neighborhoods and significant additions to the urban core date to the 12th century.19

Another important change in Iberian-North African relations involved the disappearance of effective, large-scale military power in al-Andalus and its appearance in the western or Far Maghrib in the new imperial capitals, such as Marrakesh and Rabat.20 This change lead to a key moment of political unity between the Maghrib and al-Andalus, as a series of indigenous imperial projects appeared in the Far Maghrib and, from 1091, began to subjugate the provinces of al-Andalus, which had become fragmented with the demise of the Umayyad Caliphate, which began to unravel in 1009.21 The Maghribi-centered Almoravid, Almohad, and Marinid dynasties then stood as the principal representatives of Muslim political and military power in the Islamic West and in al-Andalus itself until 1344 when the Marinids relinquished Algeciras to the Castilians and ceased playing a direct military role. Maghribi rule over al-Andalus along with the reception of displaced Andalusis resulted in the further diffusion of Andalusi practices in the Maghrib. Al-Andalus had a longer history of institutions and traditions of state. Many of these were adopted and developed in the Maghrib in this period, both by deliberate imitation on behalf of the new powers and by the employment of Andalusi exiles in the courts of the Maghrib.

The years between 1085–1248 witnessed the apex of the expansion of the Christian kingdoms of Iberia in terms of scale and importance of conquests. This thrust was met by the Almoravids, the first of the Maghribi empires, whose fiscal basis for expansion was provided by trans-Saharan trade, undergoing prodigious growth from the end of the 11th century. Almoravid trade with West Africa provided the most easily mineable gold supply in Europe and the Mediterranean in the late Middle Ages. Some of the wealth produced by this trade served as inducement for the expansion of Castile-Leon, Aragon, and Galicia-Portugal, who extracted gold from bordering Muslim kingdoms in al-Andalus (who in turn sought protection from the Almoravids). It should come as no surprise that this increase in commercial flow between the Maghrib and al-Andalus was contemporary with the high point of Muslim-Christian military confrontation and the articulation of a culture of holy war. The most celebrated symbols, battles, and figures of this process in the Spanish tradition, such as Saint Ferdinand the Conqueror, the rise of the cult of Santiago, and the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, all date to this period. Under this layer of religious conflict existed a complex patchwork of intra- and inter-religious relations and extensive commercial contacts and exchanges that, on both day-to-day and the longer term, was ultimately more consequential in economic terms.22

From roughly the middle of the 13th century (c. 1250), the remaining Muslim polity of al-Andalus, the emirate or principality of Granada, entered a period of relative stability and would survive two and a half centuries by cultivating diplomatic relations with the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile, through a relationship of vassalage, as well as with the Maghribi kingdoms and emirates (Marinids, Watasids, and Hafsids). The careers of the best-known figures of this time, such as Ibn Khaldūn and Ibn al-Khaṭīb, illustrate these diplomatic and commercial ties nicely: Ibn Khaldūn spent time in the court of Peter I of Castile, in Seville, and began work on his monumental history in Qalaʿāt Ibn Salama, in what is today Algeria, before moving to Tunis and later Egypt. Ibn al-Khaṭīb, likewise, while most famous for being a statesman and poet-historian of Granada, wrote much his most famous work while traveling or in exile in the Maghrib, in cities such as Salé (or across the river in Shāla) on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, where the Marinid sultan hosted and employed him.23 It is illustrative that both Ibn al-Khaṭīb and Ibn Khaldūn sought refuge in the Maghrib from Granadan political intrigue. An entire generation of Maghribi administrators and courtiers from al-Andalus would build careers in the Maghribi principalities, such as in the Hafsid court.24 This movement of people, expertise, and culture, had long-term impact on the culture of the Maghrib, where the idea of al-Andalus and Andalusi origins became associated with a certain kind of prestige.

While the kingdom of Granada was religiously a much more homogeneous society than its Andalusi predecessors, as a result of the territorial contraction and population movement of the preceding centuries, this did not mean that the Christian kingdoms of Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and Portugal were entirely without Muslim populations. On the contrary, by and large, conquering Christian sovereigns strove to persuade Jews and Muslims to stay, as these communities represented valuable local knowledge and economic resources as rural and urban tax bases.25 Christian sovereigns of the newly conquered territories, from Toledo to Valencia, kept or adapted existing social arrangements in which religious communities had official representatives, paid a tribute for protection, and practiced their own rite and family law. All of this meant that the first two to three centuries of Christian rule over what had been Muslim lands were typified by Christian kingdoms with large non-Christian populations—and the religio-cultural intimacy this implies—with quickly developing vernacular cultures (Castilian, Catalan, Portuguese) that drew heavily from existing local cultural forms, social patterns, and institutions adapted to the circumstances of the new Romance vernacular societies.26 From the 14th century, these vernacular Christian cultures began to disavow more strenuously the Arabic and Hebrew cultures with which they had once been so intimate. Even then, they often did this in ways that betrayed their debt.

From the development of Mudejar art and architecture, the translations of the Fables of Bidpai, the tables of Alkhawarizmi, the commentaries of Aristotle, to the adoption of Arabic numerals and paper-making techniques and many other cultural and technological innovations, the contributions of the Andalusi cultural exchange with the Latin West has been much scrutinized. What is important to underscore for the subject of this article is that the slow disappearance of a Muslim polity from the Iberian Peninsula, along with the Arabic, Berber, and Hebrew speaking populations, was not only very gradual (a six-century process) but also formative to the cultural and institutional constitutions of both Christian and Muslim societies that superseded it.27 This can be seen across a variety of fields, from irrigation techniques to decoration to philosophy and religious practices. A study of a sociocultural movement, such as the origins and rise of the Kabbala or the manufacture of paper, therefore reveals a web of relationships and exchanges from Southern France to Southern Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia (with Spain and Portugal in between). And while the Maghrib settled the largest population of displaced communities and refugees from the Iberian persecutions and wars of religion, Portugal, Southern France, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, and lands further afield provided other new homes and fertile grounds for the cultural survival of the diaspora.

The fall of the kingdom of Granada in 1492 resulted from the consolidation and expansion of the Spanish empire. The Spanish and Portuguese empires envisioned and sought the conquest and colonization of the Maghrib (and even Egypt and Palestine, betraying their debt to an intellectual tradition of universal religious war).28 In the second half of the 15th century, Portugal and Spain, and independent actors associated with them, established military and trade positions on the North and West African coasts. This was driven by maritime commercial activity and by a dramatic expansion of trade routes and spheres of activity, first down the Atlantic around the Cape of Good Hope and later to the Caribbean and the New World. Spanish and Portuguese experience of diplomatic relations in the Western Mediterranean, competing and negotiating regularly and intensely with Muslim sovereigns, constituted their key reference and model as they encountered (and preyed upon) a vaster world. As has often been observed, competition and expansion into Mediterranean and Atlantic Islands and Maghribi coasts—the Balearics in the 1230s; the Canary Islands in 1402; and presidia such as those in Oran, Melilla, and Mogador (all established around 1500)—provided the immediate background experience and the ports and points of access to New World expansion. It would be more accurate to say, however, that the two imperial theaters were contemporary and mutually informative experiences out of which the institutions and forms of Portuguese and Spanish empire were molded. Atlantic and New World interactions quickly impacted the nature of Spanish and Portuguese-Maghribi relations. In a similar vein, it bears noting that the Muslim sovereigns and subjects of the Maghrib were not frozen in a pre-1492 world any more than their European counterparts. They had a front row seat to New World conquests and extractions and would dedicate considerable efforts to wresting some of the proceeds of that extraction from Spanish and Portuguese ships as several of the militaries and economies of the Maghrib turned to piracy and privateering, such as at Salé and Tripoli.29 The Maghrib was thus profoundly affected by the expansion of Iberian empires as they encroached on Maghribi trade in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, and even West Africa, an area with which Maghribi societies and states had traded vigorously since the emergence of trans-Saharan trade in the 9th century (Ahmad al-Mansour’s invasion of Timbuktu in 1590 should be seen in this context).

Meanwhile, the Maghrib continued to receive the greatest number of refugees and displaced by the great demographic and ethno-religious convulsion of Iberian imperial formation. In Europe’s most significant episode of ethnic cleansing before the holocaust, all of Iberia’s Jewish and Muslim population would disappear by the beginning of the 17th century, the best-known (but not only) expulsions took place in 1492 (when all remaining Jews were expelled from Spain) and in 1609 when the last Moriscos were expelled after a series of armed confrontations and rebellions. These religious refugees installed themselves in cities such as Tetouan and Chefchaouen and would take part in the resistance against incursions and confrontations with Iberian imperial powers and later with French colonial forces. A culture and discourse of religious hostility and competition is a clear legacy of this process.

Jews and Inter-Religious Dynamics

This discussion has centered on Muslim-Christian relations, because while these designate religious groups, they also represent traditions of political legitimacy and state building that developed in this era. The Romance and Arabic-speaking states of Iberia and the Maghrib had very clear sectarian and religious affiliations and bases. A look at the roles of Mālikīsm and Canon Law, at saints and Sufis, or at the iconographies of the state, richly illustrates the religious component of politically legitimating discourses. Judaism was not directly associated with a tradition of state (even if Jewish individuals were employed in several echelons of state and government). As a result, the histories of Iberia and the Maghrib have often been told and conceived as ones involving majority religio-political traditions with minority presences within them (Jews, Christians, or Muslims of various stripes). A more wholistic and convincing approach, however, recognizes that for very long stretches these "majority" or dominant traditions were in numerical minority or lived alongside very significant communities of a different religion (such as was the case of al-Andalus until 1200 and Castile-Leon and Aragon between 1085 and 1492). The rulers of these polities had to accommodate, appeal to, and co-opt these minority communities. And the relations between the religious communities had a much more powerful influence on their definition as faith communities than previously thought. The relationship with religious others can be shown to be central to the constitution and formation of the dominant Muslim and Christian political, legal, and religious traditions. And the articulation of the Western Mediterranean as a Muslim-Christian-Jewish society (however inimical) was an important outcome of the medieval period and left a lasting legacy that endures today.

The experience of the Jewish community in the Western Mediterranean is significant on a variety of levels, both for its impact on the broader Jewish community as well as for its perspective on the history of Iberia-North Africa relations, in which the community played a central role and experienced both historic cultural prosperity as well as devastating persecution. There is not enough space here to do justice to this experience; but for the purposes of this article, a few ideas can be underscored. The presence of Jewish communities in both Iberia and the Maghrib goes back at least to the appearance of Christianity there, if not before. They likely spread along the same commercial routes and networks. The earliest medieval Christian legislation already shows a deep anxiety about identifying itself in opposition to Jews and with constricting their presence in Christian society.

Hebrew literary culture experienced one of its most important moments of efflorescence in al-Andalus, sharing and benefiting from the development of the Arabic literary and scientific tradition. While this is true for several areas of the Arabic-speaking world (Arabic and Hebrew are related and can benefit from similar techniques), the community in al-Andalus (or Sefarad) was exceptional, producing a handful of the most important writers and thinkers of medieval Judaism, including Moses Maimonides and Judah Halevi. With the territorial regression of al-Andalus, and relatively unencumbered by having or displaying literacy in another linguistic tradition, many individuals stand out in the historical record for their ability as cultural-religious emissaries and go-betweens. From the fall of Toledo and Zaragoza in 1085 and 1117, when significant Muslim and Jewish populations came under the rule of Christian kings, Jewish individuals played key roles in ambassadorial, diplomatic, translation, and mediating roles.

And as al-Andalus and Sefarad disappeared (the Muslim and Jewish populations that defined them dwindling through persecution, forced conversion, and expulsion) Jews, like their Muslim counterparts, carried the memory and carefully cultivated culture of Sefarad with them (including a song tradition that is one of its best-known legacies). Anxiety about the place of Jews in Christian society and the culture of religious war that developed with Christian-Muslim competition, along with other regional and local factors, lead to an escalation of persecution and episodes of cataclysmic violence against Jews in both Muslim and Christian lands from the 12th century onward. Christian persecution of Jews would prove to be on a scale many times greater, however, and led, through an escalation of episodes from the late 13th century to the end of the 15th century, to the complete disappearance from the Peninsula of publicly professed Jewish individuals and communities. Anti-Judaism and episodes of persecution and violence occurred in the Maghrib, but Jewish communities there survived and constitute today the largest in the Arabic-speaking world. The Jewish historical experience in the Maghrib is critical for understanding the region and its social dynamics.30 Memories of Sephardic culture, of the legacy and relationship of Maghribi Jews to Iberia, is likewise central to the cultural identification of this community today. Muslim-Jewish relations in the Maghrib, however, would also experience a series of crises in the colonial and independence periods arising from the legal and administrative practices of colonialism, from the repercussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict in Palestine, and from the rise of anti-Jewish rhetoric in Islamist discourse.

From the rise of maritime empires in the early modern period to the rise of post-colonial states, a closer identification of sect and national identity has triggered recurring crises between confessional groups articulated as such. A secular trend of the modern period, therefore, has been the disruption of forms of communal interaction and networking between religious communities, caused by the bureaucratic institutions of empire and state, pursuing their own fiscal and economic interests. A key result and paradox of colonial and post-colonial state practices across the Mediterranean and the Maghrib has been that, while nominally pursuing secular practices, sectarian identities have been strengthened, perpetuated—even created—naturalizing the relationship of certain relgious-national combinations and making others close to impossible (such as Spanish Jew, Spanish Muslim, Algerian or Tunisian Christian, or Moroccan Shiite). There is no space here to discuss the full nature of the development of religious and sectarian identities in the Western Mediterranean; the point made here is that religious identities in the region are not a remnant of the pre-modern past, but also a product of modern forces.

Into the Modern, 1492–1900

It bears repeating that 1492 did not mark a divergence in the trajectories of the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghrib—or of Mediterranean Europe and North Africa—one progressing to modernity and the other frozen in the past. Both marched into modernity, even when this progression was experienced differently for the obvious reason that much of modernity was contemporary with European imperialism. Modernity is a plural historical process experienced from multiple perspectives.

Spanish and Portuguese military enclaves remained on the Maghribi coast (Ceuta and Melilla are Spanish possessions to this day) in the Atlantic and Mediterranean where Hapsburg competition with the Ottomans was particularly intense. The 16th century was a key time in the political development of the Maghrib as it was caught between imperial ambitions and growing and ebbing powers whose practical and strategic maneuvers had profound impact on the region’s political life. The early modern histories of Tunisia and Algeria vividly illustrate this dance of imperial powers (especially Ottoman) with the development and consolidation of local forces. Perhaps the stand-out example is the career of Hayreddin (Ar. Khayr al-Dīn) Pasha “Barbarossa,” a corsair who captured Algiers from Spain in 1516 and ruled independently before becoming admiral of the Ottoman Navy and making Algiers into an Ottoman province. The careers of such individuals reveal a diversity not always perceived in the official political narrative. So while the 16th-century map can appear more culturally and religious homogenous, the northern and southern shores of the sea more polarized, the web of connections remained rich and vast, and countless individuals crossed these religious and political boundaries to make these connections happen. Political power itself was also far from centralized. And a variety of independent actors drove inter-Mediterranean encounters, as significant economic and political reward could be gained from such enterprise. Much recent scholarship points to the richness and complexity of these encounters and networks. The 16th century witnessed the high point of captivity and ransom, with thousands captured and displaced.31 Diplomatic and commercial embassies grew significantly.32 Family networks spanned the sea.33 And one of the largest population movements through expulsion took place in the first half of the 17th century, when up to 300,000 Moriscos were expelled from Iberia. Many arrived in the Maghrib, with enormous social and cultural impact.34 The memory of the departed and converted in Spain, moreover, did not disappear but rather encoded itself into the culture of the new empire.35

Before full European hegemony in the Mediterranean in the late 19th century, Ottoman imperial control of the Maghrib extended across Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria, stopping short of Morocco.36 From the 16th century, the Maghrib was deeply involved and affected by imperial competition in the Mediterranean, the birth of the Atlantic Economy, the slave trade, and the rise of European maritime empires. Maghribi sovereigns sought ways of countering Spanish and Portuguese encroachment into their lands, and Maghribi actors of all sorts were involved as spectators and participants in this competition and exchange. That the Maghrib played this role is clearly illustrated by the 1578 Battle of Wādī al-Makhāzin (Battle of the Three Kings), a major military and political event that pitted Spain and Portugal against the Saadians of Morocco, with devastating consequences for Portugal, whose loss of their king, Sebastian, precipitated a crisis for the empire and brought to an end a hundred-year struggle for Morocco, with powerful consequences for world history.37

Climate change in the 17th century appears to have been associated with a crisis in the political order in North Africa, after which emerged a pattern in which the economies of the region were absorbed into new global economic and political regimes, affecting multiple dimensions of the region’s relations with its neighbors and the flow of people and things. From the first half of the 19th century a series of military, administrative, and economic implementations were made in the Ottoman Maghrib (mirrored in the ʿAlawi kingdom of Morocco) in an effort to modernize institutions and prevent aggressive European encroachment, which escalated dramatically when France invaded Algiers in 1830 (eventually annexing the entire Algerian coastal region). Tunisia would become a protectorate of France in 1881, Egypt of Britain in 1882, and Morocco and Libya of France and Italy in 1912. Needless to say, the European colonization of North Africa was profoundly disruptive to the patterns of life and movement that existed prior, and spelled enormous change in the relationship between northern and southern shores of the Mediterranean. This included the creation of military and administrative structures to rule the territories and peoples of the Maghrib, the disruption of existing structures and flows (such as trans-Saharan and east-west Maghribi commerce), and the immigration of large numbers of mainly Southern European workers and colons. Thus, over the last two hundred years, two pronounced population flows have taken place; one southward, from European Mediterranean countries including Spain, France, and Italy, to cities and countrysides across the Maghrib and Egypt. This included colonial administrative personnel of all stripes but also workers and their families who flocked to take advantage of new economic opportunities created by settler colonialism in North Africa. North African cities such as Casablanca and Algiers boomed in the mid-19th century, further creating economic opportunities and a need for workers. This flow ended decisively with anti-colonial and independence movements. Late 20th- and 21st-century migration reversed the direction of the flow of people and has become so intense (because compounded by sub-Saharan and Middle Eastern demographic crises and conflicts) that it has caused an ongoing crisis in the current European political order.

Neighbors on the western end of the Mediterranean, the Iberian Peninsula, and North Africa are inextricably bound by a shared experience of the past and by deep structures of interaction. Patterns of human movement and exchange have regulated the course of Western Mediterranean exchange since antiquity and in a manner characteristic of this sea, which binds and separates in its own peculiar way: for the water indeed is a divide that must be crossed (even when this is done more easily and quickly than many sorts of land crossings), and the divide certainly exists in popular culture, in the social imagination, and in political structures that shape the movement and containment of individuals and groups and materials today. The Western Mediterranean Muslim-Christian-Jewish divide is, in itself, a kind of Mediterranean pattern, a medieval articulation of the constitution and relationship between communities, which, reformulated in early modernity, has subsisted into the contemporary period as a long-lasting pattern in Mediterranean history and relations. Relations across national borders in Iberia and North Africa remain as economically and socially vibrant as ever, even when fraught with tension, conflict, and violence. The legacy of the historical experience, from Arab conquests to European colonialism, remain in evidence as well as the economic pressures, disparities, and fluctuations of the global economy that imperil those who set out every day to cross the sea in search for a better life. The present is sometimes so grim that the past, and its role in constituting the present, can be forgotten.

Discussion of the Literature

The dissolution of the Roman Empire and the perceived cultural fragmentation of the Mediterranean that ensued has long been an object of fascination for European historical writing. Classic formulations of this narrative lie at the heart of European historical writing.38 The role of Islam in the process, likewise and for related reasons, has also posed an object of enduring fascination. Works such as H. Pirenne’s classic, Charlemagne and Muhammad, formulated narratives that explained the relationship between the constitution of Europe, the appearance of Islam, and the transformation of the Mediterranean in Late Antiquity. The national traditions of historiography and literary studies in Spain and Portugal highlighted the indigenous, Latin, and Christian origins of culture and politics for generations (as did most European national traditions) at the expense of their Arab, Berber, and Hebrew ingredients, until significant revisionary work starting in the 1970s, such as by P. Guichard, questioned this narrative.39 This work added to an important previous and ongoing debate about Arabic, Islam, and Judaism’s role in Iberian history.40 Acknowledgment of the importance of these actors in Iberian history has led to reassessing and reissuing earlier pioneering work.41 And while this history is still fractious in political and popular debate, Spanish scholarship of the last generation has contributed greatly to a deeper understanding of Iberian-North African relations.42

French historiography of the Maghrib has been perhaps even more important and influential due to its role and legacy as colonial power. While compromised by this colonial experience, deep, detailed, and insightful studies emerged from French scholar-administrators, such as Jacques Berque, a pied-noir civil servant whose career straddled colonial and post-colonial periods.43 It is no coincidence that the pioneer of the Mediterranean long view was a French scholar with pedagogical experience in colonial Algeria, Fernand Braudel, whose La Méditeranée à l’époque de Phillippe II, was enormously influential in shaping a view of history beyond the parochialism of the national culture and archive. More recent Mediterranean scholarship still invokes his work: Liang et al.’s Spanning the Strait: Studies in Union in the Western Mediterranean includes examples of such work and ample bibliography, as does Gaiser and Ali-de-Unzaga, Factes of Exchange between North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula.44

In Maghribi historiography, in which several forces have contended, a few currents can be highlighted: The core textual tradition is the classical tradition of Arab-Islamic historiography, in its Western Islamic form and with its particular political and institutional genealogies. Historians such as Ibn al-Khāṭīb and Ibn Khaldūn, both 14th-century polymaths and administrators, began to conceive of al-Andalus and the Maghrib as conforming a narrative whole.45 Perhaps most influential of the entire tradition is Aḥmad al-Maqqarī, the 17th-century Maghribi historian of al-Andalus.46 The literature and historiography of Maghribi states after independence, including the narratives of anti-colonial struggle and origins of the national community, constituted a generation of historical writing that contextualized the formation of the new national communities and attempted to decolonize the narrative. This historiography interacted with a larger debate about modernization and the role of history.47 Another current, the literature of the Amazigh/Berber role in the history of North Africa has often questioned several of the dominant narratives and offers an alternative approach.48 There is a rich and active literature on the Maghrib’s relationship to Iberia being produced in the countries of the Maghrib, in Arabic and in French.49

Primary Sources

The appearance and disappearance of linguistic traditions in the Iberian Peninsula poses one of the key difficulties for the study of the medieval Western Mediterranean. The Andalusi archive (and that of Sepharad) were destroyed in the long process of cultural conquest and colonization. The cultural, religious, and linguistic conversion of so many towns and cities provides a great historiographical challenge. Finds such as the Cairo Geniza (a cache of mundane documents including correspondence from the medieval period), is truly rare for the medieval Mediterranean generally, and for a place like al-Andalus especially. As a result, the dominant source for the study of the al-Andalus and Sepharad has been literary: the corpus of texts copied by later generations and spanning many genres. Chronicles have been most influential, with their narration of political events. Biographical dictionaries, geographies, travel itineraries, and other genres have also been of interest. Islamic religious and legal texts, overlapping in many respects with the above mentioned genres, survive also in large numbers, but almost always as copies of copies, glosses, and abridgments. We therefore have narratives of the past composed generations after the events and deeply influenced by the literary, political, and interpretive forces that shape all such narratives (so powerfully related to the interests of the contemporary narrators and audiences). Examples of such sources, translated into English, include Constable, Barton and Fletcher, and Levtzion and Hopkins.50 Spanish and French editions and translations of such sources are rich, such as the classic works of E. Levi-Provençal and E. García-Gómez, many have appeared since.51 The material sources provided by archeology and art history have proven a key complement to this historiography, because they not only add to our knowledge and complete the picture of this past; they often completely contradict it. Fortunately, later medieval and early modern documents survive in greater numbers. Likewise, they complement and sometimes contradict inherited historical narratives. Modern records are vast. The colonial and national archives are rich with untapped material but can pose a linguistic challenge to the researcher. And the disparity in wealth of the communities that house them often affects their accessibility: The Spanish and French manuscript holdings and archives are open to the public and increasingly available as digital resources. Maghribi archives have more restricted access, cataloguing of the holdings is incomplete. And digitalization is slow to nonexistent. A list of key primary source collections begins with manuscript collections such as el Escorial or the Moroccan and Tunisian National Libraries. Next are medieval archives, such as that of the Crown of Aragon, one of the richest of its kind. Then there are the much larger early modern and modern archives such as the Crown of Castile’s archive at Simancas and the French colonial archive at Aix-en-Provence. Museum material collections and art and architecture should be considered, because, as mentioned above, they present some of the most articulate evidence of Iberian-North African exchange. The following lists are intended as a helpful introduction.52

Fondation du Roi Abdul-Aziz Casablanca Virtual Library

Hesperis-Tamuda, the Premier Journal of Moroccan History

H-Maghrib, H-Net’s Network for North African History and Studies

Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations in Marseille

Museum with No Frontiers for Art and Architecture of the Region

Instituto de Lenguas y Culturas del Mediterráneo y Oriente Próximo

Portal de Archivos Españoles Gateway to Spanish Archives

Al-Qanṭara A Journal of the Islamic West

Spain-North Africa Project Online Resources

Further Reading

Abun-Nasr, M. Jamil. A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

Anderson, Glaire D., and Mariam Rosser-Owen, eds. Revisiting Al-Andalus: Perspectives on the Material Culture of al-Andalus and Beyond. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.Find this resource:

Bennison, Amira, K. The Almoravid and Almohad Empires. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Brett, Michael, and Elizabeth Fentress. The Berbers. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1997.Find this resource:

Catlos, Brian A. Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, c. 1050–1614. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.Find this resource:

Clancy-Smith, Julia. Rebel and Saint: Muslim Notables, Populist Protest, Colonial Encounters (Algeria and Tunisia, 1800–1904). Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Clancy-Smith, Julia. Mediterraneans: North Africa and Europe in an Age of Migration, c. 1800–1900. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Constable, Olivia Remie. Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Fromherz, Allen J. The Near West: Medieval North Africa, Latin Europe, and the Mediterranean in the Second Axial Age. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Fuchs, Barbara. Exotic Nation: Maurophilia and the Construction of Early Modern Spain. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.Find this resource:

García-Arenal, Mercedes, and Gerard Wiegers. A Man of Three Worlds: Samuel Pallache, a Moroccan Jew in Catholic and Protestant Europe. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.Find this resource:

Glasser, Jonathan. The Lost Paradise: Andalusi Music in Urban North Africa. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016.Find this resource:

Goldberg, Jessica L. Trade and Institutions in the Medieval Mediterranean the Geniza Merchants and Their Business World. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Gómez-Rivas, Camilo. Law and the Islamization of Morocco under the Almoravids: The Fatwās of Ibn Rushd al-Jadd to the Far Maghrib. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2014.Find this resource:

Gottreich, Emily. Jewish Morocco: A History From Pre-Islamic to Post-Colonial Times. London: I.B. Taurus, 2018.Find this resource:

Horden, Peregrine, and Sharon Kinoshita. A Companion to Mediterranean History. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.Find this resource:

Kennedy, Hugh. Muslim Spain and Portugal: A Political History of al-Andalus. London: Longman, 1996.Find this resource:

Liang, Yuen-Gen, Abigail Balbale, Andrew Devereux, and Camilo Gómez-Rivas, eds. Spanning the Strait: Studies in Unity in the Western Mediterranean. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013.Find this resource:

Rouighi, Ramzi. The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate: Ifriqiya and Its Andalusis, 1200–1400. Middle Ages Series. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011.Find this resource:

Ruiz, Teofilo F. The Western Mediterranean and the World, 400 CE to the Present. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.Find this resource:

Wacks, David. Framing Iberia: Maqām and Frametale Narratives in Medieval Spain. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2007.Find this resource:


(1.) A theory of Mediterranean connectivity and its role in history is presented in detail in Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell, The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2000). It builds on a tradition of studying the long-term historical structures of the Mediterranean pioneered in Fernand Braudel, La Méditerranée et le monde méditeranéen à l’époque de Philippe II (Paris: Armand Colin, 1949). For an initial discussion of the Maghrib and the Mediterranean in antiquity, see D. Shaw Brent, “A peculiar Island: Maghrib and Mediterranean,” Mediterranean Historical Review 18, no. 2 (2003): 93–125.

(2.) The pre-modern Mediterranean was not conceived of or imagined by its inhabitants in its totality or as a whole. For recent discussions of the Mediterranean as a complex network of cultural interaction, see Peregrine Horden and Sharon Kinoshita, A Companion to Mediterranean History (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014); and A. Catlos Brian and Kinoshita Sharon, Can We Talk Mediterranean (New York: Springer, 2017). For a longer introduction and bibliography on Western Mediterranean studies, see Yuen-Gen Liang et al., “Unity and Disunity Across the Strait of Gibraltar,” Medieval Encounters 19 (2013).

(3.) The Arabic term Maghrib commonly denotes western North Africa, an area roughly coterminous with the modern states of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco, but which can also be thought to include Libya, Mauritania, and beyond. Egypt, the most populous Arabic-speaking province of Africa, is traditionally left out on account of its geographical separateness, its closeness to the Mashriq or Arab East, and its cultural difference, as it doesn’t share the indigenous Berber or Amazighi culture that characterizes much of the Maghrib. Likewise, the Maghrib doesn’t share Egypt’s Pharaonic and Coptic cultures. Still, Egypt has always played a central role in the history of the Maghrib because of the many land and sea routes that connect them.

(4.) The sequence Late Antique, Medieval, Early Modern, and Modern corresponds to a European and European-centered perspective of historical change and periodization. It is often distorting and inappropriate to use in non-European contexts where alternate terms are used (such as Pre- and Post-Axial or Middle Period). It is interesting to consider the question in a Mediterranean framework, since the transition to modernity was characterized by a certain kind and intensity of European presence and control of Mediterranean commerce. Still the ideological echoes the periodization conjures are too powerful and distorting for the Southern Mediterranean context. The far or western Maghrib experienced important continuity between these periods, and the periodization should be questioned. It is kept in this article for the sake of convenience, but its problematic aspects (that it reinforces a Euro-centric perspective) should be kept in mind.

(5.) It is important to note that this basic idea dominates contemporary popular notions of Mediterranean North-South relations. Even if academically and historically inaccurate, its popular reality and appeal means it has real and significant impact.

(6.) This points to the Mediterranean itself, as an idea, developing historically.

(7.) The Ottoman occupation constituted a similar political and cultural challenge to the Arab Mediterranean, an idea which the narrative of the Arab Cultural Revival of the 19th century fully embraces. Still, the Christian-Muslim conflict overshadows other conflicts in the historical literature and popular consciousness.

(8.) Even if modern trade statistics may contradict such notions.

(9.) Another problematic term, Spain, is commonly used in English to refer to the Iberian Peninsula. Iberia, which has come into use in academic English, is not used in Spanish. Spain and Portugal are modern nation-states, which came into being in the 15th century and are not coterminous with the more numerous predecessors (the Christian kingdoms of Castile-Leon, Navarre, Aragon, and Galicia-Portugal, among others). Al-Andalus is the Arabic term for the Peninsula, Sefarad the Hebrew word, and both are most often used to refer to the religious or political community that existed there, although sometimes the geographical peninsula is meant.

(10.) Making this point about the medieval Mediterranean, see Michael McCormick, Origins of the European Economy: Communications and Commerce, A.D. 300–900 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

(11.) For examples on shared and mirroring ideas of sovereignty, see Hussein Fancy, The Mercenary Mediterranean (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016). And more generally on sovereignty in the Islamic West, see Amira K. Bennison, The Articulation of Power in Medieval Iberia and the Maghrib (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

(12.) Amazigh, meaning “free men,” derives from the name of a Berber-speaking group, one of the most populous, from the Middle Atlas region in Morocco. It has been adopted and generalized as a modern term for Berber or pan-identity by the modern political and social movement.

(13.) On trans-Saharan trade, see Ralph A. Austen, Trans-Saharan Africa in World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

(14.) On this period of confluence and its meaning for the Western Mediterranean, see Allen J. Fromherz, The Near West: Medieval North Africa, Latin Europe, and the Mediterranean in the Second Axial Age (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016).

(15.) A recent work on this migration is Julia Clancy-Smith, Mediterraneans: North Africa and Europe in an Age of Migration, c. 1800–1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010).

(16.) Recent examples of how this transition is coming to be understood include Brandie Ratliff and Helen C. Evans, Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th–9th Century (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012); and Hugh Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live in (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2007).

(17.) Brian A. Catlos, “Ethno-Religious Minorities,” in A Companion to Mediterranean History, eds. Peregrine Horden and Sharon Kinoshita (Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley, 2014) discusses evolving dynamics of interaction between ethno-religious groups.

(18.) Ethnicity too, but I hesitate to emphasize, as we’ve inherited a distorting, racialized perception that tends to envision difference through race.

(19.) James L. Boone and Nancy L. Benco, “Islamic Settlement in North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula,” Annual Review of Anthropology 28 (1999); Míkel de Epalza, “Estructuras de acogida de los Moriscos emigrantes de España en el Mágreb (Siglos XIII al XVIII),” Alternativas. Cuadernos de Trabajo Social, 4 (Octubre 1996): 35–58 (1996); and Camilo Gómez-Rivas, Law and the Islamization of Morocco Under the Almoravids: The Fatwās of Ibn Rushd al-Jadd to the Far Maghrib (2014) discuss the appearance of urban centers from different angels. On the history of Fez, see Simon O’Meara, Space and Muslim Urban Life: At the Limits of the Labyrinth of Fez (New York: Routledge, 2007).

(20.) Far Maghrib: a rendering of the Arabic al-Maghrib al-Aqsā (i.e., “the farthest west”) as this region became known in the Arabic geographical tradition. The governments of such states, unlike their modern counterparts, routinely moved from center to center.

(21.) War broke out as pretenders tried to recapture the loyalty and prestige owned by the caliphate, which formally came to an end in 1031.

(22.) For a recent work on the nature of medieval Mediterranean trade and the nature of existing sources for its study, see Jessica L. Goldberg, Trade and Institutions in the Medieval Mediterranean the Geniza Merchants and Their Business World (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012).

(23.) Peter Tamas Nagy, “Arabic Sources for Marīnid Shāla” (MA thesis, University of Oxford, 2016).

(24.) Ramzi Rouighi, The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate: Ifriqiya and Its Andalusis, 1200–1400. Middle Ages Series (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

(25.) Popular sentiment could be quite different and may explain why the Arabized Christian population (Mozarabs) disappeared before Arabized Jews and Muslims, cultural difference within the religious group being less tolerable.

(26.) This is how much Andalusi heritage was absorbed by Spanish culture. It is perhaps most visible in toponyms, horticulture, crafts, and in the Spanish vocabularies of local administration.

(27.) Hebrew was a liturgical language more than a spoken one, but one which witnessed a remarkable renaissance as a literary language for secular purposes. Amazigh dialects were rarely written but there are many references to their being spoken.

(28.) This discourse also proved influential in what became the empire’s more consuming undertaking, the conquest and colonization of the Americas. On Portuguese and Spanish imperial ideologies, see Ananya Chakravarti, The Empire of Apostles: Religion, Accomodatio, and the Immagination of Empire in Early Modern Brazil and India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2018), ch. 5; and Andrew W. Devereux, “North Africa in Early Modern Spanish Political Thought,” Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 12, no. 3 (2011).

(29.) The concept of maritime jihād was born in this milieu.

(30.) Emily Gottreich, Jewish Morocco: A History From Pre-Islamic to Post-Colonial Times (London: I.B. Tauris, 2018).

(31.) For an example of the intricacy of relationships involved in a ransom case, see Daniel Hershenzon, “The Political Economy of Ransom in the Early Modern Mediterranean,” Past and Present 231, no. 1 (2016): 61–95.

(32.) The role of translators, mediators, and go-betweens is a field of particular interest. See the work of Roser Salicrú I Lluch, “La diplomacia y las embajadas como expresión de los contactos interculturales entre cristianos y musulmanes en el Mediterráneo occidental durante la Baja Edad Media,” Estudios de Historia de España 9 (2017): 77–106. See also Claire Gilbert, “Transmission, Translation, Legitimacy and Control: The Activities of a Multilingual Scribe in Morisco Granada,” in Multilingual and Multigraphic Manuscripts and Documents of East and West, eds. Giuseppe Mandala and Inmaculada Pérez (Piscatawy, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2016), 339–376.

(33.) Yuen-Gen Liang, Family and Empire: The Férnandez de Córdoba and the Spanish Realm (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

(34.) There is a large and growing bibliography about this topic. See, for example, Kevin Ingram, ed., The Conversos and Moriscos in Late Medieval Spain and Beyond (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012), with a follow-up volume published in 2015.

(35.) Barbra Fuchs, Exotic Nation: Maurophilia and the Construction of Early Modern Spain (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011).

(36.) Ottoman administration varied according to province; the Maghribi provinces of the empire were ruled indirectly.

(37.) As Edmund Burke III has recently argued. Edmund Burke III, “The Sixteenth-Century World War and the Roots of the Modern World: A View From the Edge,” in Encounters Old and New in World History: Essays Inspired By Jerry H. Bentley, eds. Alan Karras and Laura J. Mitchell (Honoluluben: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017).

(38.) Such as Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

(39.) Pierre Guichard, Structures sociales “orientales” et “occidentales” dans l’Espagne musulmane (Paris: Mouton, 1977).

(40.) Americo Castro and Claudio Sánchez Albornoz were protagonists.

(41.) From authors such as Francisco Codera y Zaidín and Julián Ribera. Manuela Marín, “Arabistas en España: Un asunto de familia,” al-Qanṭara 13 (1992): 379–394, evaluates Arabic studies in Spain.

(42.) The renaming of the national research council’s flagship Arabic studies journal from al-Andalus to al-Qanṭara reflects the change in perspective from one concerned solely with the role of Arabic in the national history of Spain to a view of the connections the Iberian peninsula had through its linguistic traditions to other places, especially North Africa.

(43.) Works include Jacques Berque, Structures sociales du Haut-Atlas (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1955). And “Essai sur la méthode juridique maghrébine,” in Opera minora (Paris: Éd. Bouchène, 2001), 273–358.

(44.) Liang, Yuen-Gen, Abigail Balbale, Andrew Devereux, and Camilo Gómez-Rivas, eds. Spanning the Strait: Studies in Unity in the Western Mediterranean (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013); Adam Gaiser and Miriam Ali-de-Unazaga, Factes of Exchange between North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula, a special issue of The Journal of North African Studies (2014): vol. 19; see also Ed de Moor, Otto Zwartjes and Geert Jan van Gelder, eds. Poetry, Politics and Polemics (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1996).

(45.) In which al-Andalus took pride of place.

(46.) While undeniably influential on European historiography of the Maghrib, the administrative and archival practices of the colonial state had its own influence on shaping the Arabic historiography in the Maghrib itself. Ibn Khaldūn’s prominence in modern historiography both in Arabic and in European languages, has been said to be a product of French Orientalist influence. Ramzi Rouighi. The Making of a Mediterranean Emirate: Ifriqiya and Its Andalusis, 1200–1400 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011); and Sabahat Adil, “Memorializing Al-Maqqarī: The Life, Work, and Worlds of a Muslim Scholar” (PhD diss., University of Chicago, 2015).

(47.) One example, translated into English is Abdallah Laroui, The History of the Maghrib: An Interpretive Essay (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1977). A valuable study of the interaction of nationalism and historiography in the Maghrib is James McDougall, History and the Culture of Nationalism in Algeria (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

(48.) A recent example of a growing literature is Yassine Temlali, La genèse de la Kabylie: Aux origines de l’affirmation berbère en Algérie (1830–1962) (Alger, Algeria: Editions Barzakh, 2015). For an introduction to the modern political movement, see Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011).

(49.) Publishing houses like Dār al-Gharb al-Islamī and Toubkal publish editions and new studies. Ketabook, a commercial bookseller, features a representative sample and some useful lists.

(50.) Olivia Remie Constable, Medieval Iberia: Readings from Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Sources (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997). Simon Barton and Richard Fletcher, The World of El Cid (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000). Nehemia Levtzion and J. F. P. Hopkins, eds. Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History (Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener, 2000). A Maghrib-specific collection of primary sources is lacking; Useful introductions include Phillip C. Naylor, North Africa: A History from Antiquity to the Present, Revised Edition (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2015). The forthcoming title will be of interest: Julia Clancy Smith, ed., A History of the Maghrib: From Pre-History to the Present, c. 1000 BCE–2015 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). Also appropriate as an introduction, from a different angle, is Michael Brett and Elizabeth Fentress, The Berbers (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 1997).

(51.) For example, E. Lévi-Provençal, ed. Documents inédits d’histoire almohade: Fragments manuscrits du “Legajo” 1919 du fond arabe de l’Escurial (Paris: P. Geuthner, 1928). Who translated some of Lévi-Provençal’s editions, such as: ʿAbd Allāh b. Buluggin, El siglo XI en 1a. persona: las “Memorias” de ʿAbd Allāh, último Rey zīrí de Granada, destronado por los Almorávides (1090). Translated by É. Lévi-Provençal and E. García Gómez (Madrid: Alianza Literaria, 1980); and Ibn ʿAbdūn, Séville musulmane au début du XIIe siècle: Le traité d’Ibn ʿAbdun traduit avec une introduction et des notes par É. Lévi-Provençal (Paris: Édition G. P. Maisonneuve, 1947), which exists in both languages. Such as Pascal Buresi and Hicham El Aallaoui, Governing the Empire: Provincial Administration in the Almohad Caliphate (1224–1269) (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2012), translated into English by Travis Bruce. It was first published in French by the Casa de Velázquez, a French research institute in Madrid. Similar work is produced by members of the research group CIHAM, Histoire, archéologie, littératures de mondes chrétiens et musulmans médievaux (UMR 5648), housed at Université Lyon 2 and funded by the CNRS (Centre national de recherche scientifique. The humanities and social science section supports several other such groups). In Spain, the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, CCHS, Estudios Árabes e Islámicos publishes three series that contain new studies and text editions: Fuentes Arábico-Hispánicas, Estudios Onomástico-Biográficos de al-Andalus, and Estudios Árabes e Islámicos.

(52.) A useful guide to manuscript collections in the Maghrib is Jocelyn Hendrickson, “A Guide to Arabic Manuscript Libraries in Morocco, With Notes on Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt, and Spain,” MELA Notes 81 (2008); and Jocelyn Hendrickson and Sabahat Adil, “A Guide to Arabic Manuscript Libraries in Morocco: Further Developments,” MELA Notes 86 (2013).