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A Mercenary Logic? Muslim Soldiers in the Service of Christian Kings
CMRS Distinguished Visiting Scholar Lecture
Over the course of the late-thirteenth and fourteenth centuries — as they subdued, expelled, and enslaved Muslim populations — the kings of the Crown of Aragon recruited thousands of North African cavalry soldiers, whom they called jenets, to serve in their armies and in their courts as body guards, members of their entourage, and even, on occasion, as their entertainment. Drawing on Latin, Romance, and Arabic archival sources from Spain and North Africa, CMRS Distinguished Visiting Scholar Hussein Fancy (History, University of Michigan) explains this alliance between Christian Aragonese kings and foreign Muslim soldiers. He suggests that far from marking the triumph of secular tolerance over religious intolerance, the alliance between the Aragonese kings and the jenets both depended upon and reproduced ideas of religious difference. More precisely, he argues that this history of interaction should be understood within evolving and intertwined Christian and Islamic ideas about sovereignty, religion, and violence. In recruiting Muslim soldiers, the kings of the Crown of Aragon invoked a deep and shared imperial tradition that bound rulers and religious others in the medieval Mediterranean.
Hussein Fancy is Associate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. His research and writing focus on the social, cultural, and intellectual history of religious interaction in the medieval Mediterranean. In particular, he is interested in projects that combine the use of Latin, Arabic, and Romance archival sources. He is currently working on two projects: the first, entitled The Outlaw Sea: The Making of the Medieval Mediterranean, follows the activities of criminal merchants—pirates and smugglers—in order to rethink the relationship between religion and trade; the second, entitled The Eastern Question, examines western views of Islam from the seventh century to the present. Professor Fancy visits UCLA as a Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Department of History during the week of October 23, 2017.
Co-sponsored by the UCLA Department of History. Funding for CMRS Distinguished Visiting Scholars is provided by the Humanities Division of the UCLA College of Letters and Sciences and the Armand Hammer Endowment of the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.
Image from Cantigas de Santa Maria of Alfonso X, no. 181; c. 1284.
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