Warfare in Muslim Material Cultures: From Egypt to Bilad al-Sham

Date / time: 10 November - 11 November, 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Warfare in Muslim Material Cultures: From Egypt to Bilad al-Sham

Military architecture through recent archaeological excavations and arms and armour in the Royal Armouries Collections.

The course presents Muslim material cultures in a very specific context: warfare in the Middle East and Egypt during the Medieval and Modern Ages. War played a very important role in Muslim cultures and through the study of military architecture and arms and amour, the course will explore art and architecture in a war context to explain identity and changes in Muslim societies from the Arab conquest to the eve of the colonial period. Most of the arms and armour which will be presented during the course are from the Royal Armouries’ collections, from some of its most well-known treasures to objects rarely made available for public view.

Read and download course structure: https://rb.gy/k3nbzl

Learning Outcomes

This course links Muslim and Christian cultures through war and peace, diplomacy and social changes. All aspects of Muslim societies will be studied through the lens of military architecture and arms and armour. Following this short course, participants will be able to:

  • Differentiate between the role of warfare in Muslim societies in the Middle and Modern Age
  • Learn about the importance of cultural exchanges between the East and West
  • Study the impact of the past to understand the relations between Muslims and Christians in today’s society
  • Receive a methodological background on archaeology, history and art history
  • Recognise the different types of Muslim fortifications by geographical area and period
  • Distinguish between different types of Muslim arms and armour by geographical area and period.

Teaching and Learning Methods

The format of the short course includes two days of lectures and readings: one day on architecture and another one on art. The first day will be based on Stephane Pradines’ extensive knowledge and fieldwork on Islamic fortifications and military architecture. The second day will consist of a lecture by Stephane Pradines on oriental arms and Islamic art and Natasha Bennett’s short videos on the Royal Armouries Museum’s collections. After each lecture, the speakers will receive questions raised by the participants, engage with them on current debates regarding unresolved academic issues, and provide further academic guidance. Participants are required to complete the assigned reading for each day and to be ready to discuss the materials in a group.

Course Convenors

Stephane Pradines is an archaeologist, Professor of Islamic art and architecture at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in London. He is a specialist of trade and Islamisation in the Indian Ocean, from the Swahili coast to the Maldives. He is also a specialist of warfare in medieval Africa. He was the director of the excavations of the Walls of Cairo in Egypt from 2000 to 2016. He is now in charge of the excavations of the fort of Lahore in Pakistan. From 2008 to 2015, Stephane Pradines, Abbes Zouache and Mathieu Eychenne were co-directors of an international research programme on War in the Medieval Middle East organised by the French Institute of Archaeology in Cairo (IFAO) and the French Institute in Near East, Beirut-Damascus (IFPO). Professor Pradines has published many articles and books on military architecture, fortifications, arms and armour from the Fatimid to the late Ottoman period.

Natasha Bennett is the Curator of Oriental Collections at the Royal Armouries, UK. Natasha read History at Durham University (2004 – 2007). She joined the Royal Armouries in 2011 as a Curatorial Assistant and was confirmed as Curator in 2017. The Royal Armouries holds the UK’s national collection of arms and armour. Natasha works with the Asian and African collections. Her remit includes an enormous spread of arms and armour mostly dating from between the 14th and 20th centuries, so her areas of research and publication are necessarily wide-ranging. She is the author of Chinese Arms and Armour (Leeds: Royal Armouries, 2018). She has also published work on the accumulation and interpretation of South Asian arms and armour at the Armouries during the 19th century, Asian matchlock guns, the Royal Armouries’ Sudanese collection and Japanese armour.

Time:   10-11 November 2020, 14:00-18:00.

Tickets and Booking

Tickets: £75 professionals | £45 students and AKU alumni, RA members, and AKU and RA staff. Book your ticket soon: https://rb.gy/pdubyo

Organisers:  The Aga Khan University’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations and Royal Armouries Museum, UK.

*The course will be delivered via Zoom. Readings and further details will be provided later upon registration.

Image Caption: Mamluk furussiya manuscript in Aqṣarā’ī, Muḥammad ibn ‘Īsá ibn Ismā‘īl al-Ḥanafī, Nihāyat al-su’l wa-al-umnīyah fī ta‘allum a‘māl al-furūsīyah, 773/1371. British Library: Oriental Manuscripts, Qatar Digital Library, Add MS 18866.