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Academic Year 2024/2025

Islam and Christianity in the Middle Ages (HIS20460)

Arts & Humanities
2 (Intermediate)
Module Coordinator:
Dr Edward Coleman
Mode of Delivery:
On Campus
Internship Module:
How will I be graded?
Letter grades

Curricular information is subject to change.

The module examines the interaction between different societies and belief systems in the area of the Mediterranean during the period often referred to as the Early Middle Ages ( sixth to eleventh centuries Christian Era (CE) /first to fifth centuries Anno Hegirae/Year of the Hijrah (AH). It opens with a consideration of the life and message of the Prophet Mohammed, followed by an investigation of the distinctive society created by his successors through conquest and settlement in Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and north Africa. Particular attention is paid to the multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-faith character of the Umayyad / Abbasid Caliphate in which Arab rulers held authority over a population of Sunni and Shi'a Muslims; Orthodox, Monophysite and Coptic Christians; Jews and Zoroastrians.The module then turns to Christian Spain and Sicily, which were also conquered and incorporated into Dar al-islam (the Islamic world), examining the impact of this encounter between peoples with completely different religious, social, linguistic and legal norms, and assessing the cultural imprint and legacy of this era in these areas up until the present time. Students have the opportunity to study a range of both Muslim and Christian primary sources , and are encouraged to approach these readings, and the secondary literature, from an intercultural perspective.

About this Module

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module student should be able to:
1. Show knowledge and understanding of the early history of the Arab speaking world and its cultural heritage in the
Mediterranean area.
2. Appreciate intercultural interactions and interfaith relations in past societies.
3. Critically appraise and contextualise primary source material from differing perspectives.
4. Make informed judgements on Islamic history and culture and challenge stereotypes.
5. Demonstrate a capacity for cultural sensitivity when considering complex issues and engage in constructive and respectful
6. Reflect on the relevance of learning in different cultural and geographical contexts

Indicative Module Content:

Lecture 1 – Before Islam
Seminar 1 - Introduction to the module content and assessment. The history and character of Arabia before Islam.
Map work and reflection on a glossary of terms

Lecture 2 – The Birth of Islam
Seminar 2 -The life of the Prophet and the socio-political context of the emergence of Islam as an organised religious belief system.

Lecture 3- The Rightly Guided Caliphs
Seminar 3 - The Constitution of Medina. The Umma and the organisation of early Islamic society.

Lecture 4 - The Conquering Caliphate
Seminar 4 – The Pact of Umar. Relations between the Arabs and subject populations in Syria, Egypt and Persia.

Lecture 5 – The World of the Umayyads
Seminar 5 - The Dome of the Rock. Conversion, assimilation and internal divisions.

Lecture 6 – The Arab Conquest of Spain
Seminar 6 – Map work. The great mosque of Córdoba.

Lecture 7 - Charlemagne, the Franks and the Islamic world
Seminar 7 - Diplomatic exchanges between Aachen and Baghdad.

Lecture 8 – The Arabs in the western Mediterranean
Seminar 8 - Trades and raids. Commerce and piracy across the religious divide.

Lecture 9 – The beginning of the 'Reconquista' in Spain
Seminar 9 - The poem of El Cid. Fact and fiction on the eve of the Cruades.

Lecture 10 - The 'other Norman Conquest' in southern Italy
Seminar 10 - Greeks, Arabs, Normans. Sicily's mixed cultural legacy.

Student Effort Hours:
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Field Trip/External Visits


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This module is based a combination of lectures and seminar work. The lectures provide broad overview of the module content whilst the seminar focus is on the study of primary source materials. One seminar is off campus in which students will have the opportunity to view original documentary material and artefacts relevant to the module. This is linked to the mid semester assignment.

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Participation in Learning Activities: Structured student activity including individual reflective exercises, peer review and group work (in-class and online). Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4, Week 5, Week 6, Week 7, Week 8, Week 9, Week 10, Week 11, Week 12 Graded No


Assignment(Including Essay): An essay on a topic selected from a list provided in the module handbook (2000 words +/- 10%, conforming to the School of History style guidelines available on Brightspace). Week 14 Graded No


Portfolio: A written text (description and contextual comment) or a video presentation (5 minutes) focussed on an image related to module subject matter. Week 6 Graded No



Carry forward of passed components

Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 

Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

- Written feedback on the portfolio is provided through Brightspace post submission. - Written feedback on the essay is provided through Brightspace post submission. - Oral feedback on all assessed work for the module is available on request by appointment in one-to-one meetings.

Name Role
Assoc Professor Elva Johnston Lecturer / Co-Lecturer