Title: Boundary-Crossing, Boundary-Making: Muslim and Christian Mercenaries in the Western Mediterranean (1213-1327)
Name: Hussein Fancy

Assistant Professor
University of Michigan
fancy@umich.edu fancy@umich.edu

Year: 2006
Type: Research Grant
Summary: This dissertation offers a critical reevaluation of Christian-Islamic violence in the Middle Ages. Grounded in extensive and original research in Arabic, Latin, and Romance archival documents as well as legal, historical, and theological literature, I argue that the study of religious violence must move beyond polemical and apologetic approaches, claims that violence reflected either blind fanaticism or strategic political manipulation. Instead, despite its appearance, religious violence must be examined as a convergence of political, economic, theological, and private motivations as well as confluence of multiple local and supralocal actors. Using the surprising and little-known history of the service of Muslim soldiers in the armies of the Christian kings of Spanish Crown of Aragon during the period of the Crusades, I demonstrate that despite diverse, complex, and often contradictory motivations, this alliance reinforced religious differences and legitimized religious violence. Religious hostility, one might say, was less the cause than the product of such encounters. The complexity of this process cautions not only against over-simplifications of interactions in the Middle Ages but also in the study of religious interactions in general.