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Fall 2020


MSCP 80500. Migrations, Displacement, and Slavery in a Global Medieval Perspective. Wednesdays, 4:15PM-6:15PM, Room TBA, 4 credits, Francesca Sautman.

What is known as the “medieval period” is largely thought of as a Western European temporality. It did not, however, exist in isolation from or without consequences for other peoples, cultures and polities located even far beyond its confines. There were vast population movements across Asia, Europe and North Africa throughout the early “medieval” period into early modern times that impacted and informed each other in many ways. These transnational or transcultural connections, as well as simultaneously occurring foundational events across regions, are what contemporary approaches to a “global history” seek to grasp and decipher, rather than narrowly defined histories based on current nation-states.

This course proposes such a global outlook focused on how medieval populations, communities, and individuals migrated from a place of origin to one they adopted or occupied, or to which they were forcibly displaced, whether by war, economics, or political strategies. A frequent result of these forcible displacements was the enslavement of large numbers of people based on their religion or ethnicity, a practice that remained very prevalent throughout the Middle Ages.

In the first half of the course, we consider some primary examples of massive displacements. These include: the early movements of populations across the European continent (the so-called “Barbarian invasions”) following the fall of the Roman Empire; the long-lasting effects of the Norman expansion since 1066, not only in England, but the Norman rule in Sicily over a mixed Arab and Sicilian population that was both culturally rich and fraught with conflicts; the far-reaching  changes in population distribution, cultural habits and political systems brought by the rise and consolidation of the Mongol empire and its conquests westward; and the effects of discrimination culminating in the expulsion of Jewish communities in Northwestern Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the end 15th-century expulsion of both Jews and Muslims from Iberia.

In the second half, we study the many forms taken by the enslavement of people from the early Middle Ages to the eve of the early modern period: the move from ancient forms of slavery towards the system of serfdom; practices of enslavement in the Mediterranean and Balkans and their relationship to servitude;  enslavement for the exploitation of sugar plantations in 15th -century  Europe that honed systems of enslavement soon to be imported to the Americas; and the beginnings of the transatlantic trade with the early Portuguese incursions into West Africa.

As illustrative of the various themes of the course studied together, we will also examine several case studies focused on individuals (the journey of Leo Africanus born al Hasan ibn Muhammad al Wazzan al Fasi ); on the entanglements of religion, ethnic belonging and local political power with enslavement-- in Aragon and Castile between the 13th and 15th centuries; on a community, with the massive migration of a people retaining its language of origin and creating a cultural fusion still extant today (the Arbëreshë  of Southern Italy originating in 14th and 15th- century Albania).

Given the limits of a semester and this global perspective, we cannot examine each segment of the course at great length, but students are encouraged to create a term project dedicated to a specific area, region, population or issue that will encompass all their work for the semester on one topic, especially if they are taking the course for 3 or 4 credits.  They are also encouraged to use sources in languages other than English as appropriate to their research topic. If interested in the course, please contact instructor for further information and for initial lists of readings before the summer (



CL 88000: Italy’s Dialect Through Time, Space and Society, GC; Wed, 6:30pm-8:30pm, Room TBA, 2 credits,  Hermann Haller. 


ENGL 80700: Racial, Religious, and Sexual Queerness in Medieval Literature, GC: Thur, 11:45AM – 1:45PM. 2/4 Credits.  Steven Kruger. 


HIST  78110: Violence in Islamic History, GC: Wed, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM.  3 credits. Anna Akasoy. 

SPAN 70100: Spanish as a Historical Problem, GC: Tues, 6:30-8:30 p.m. 3 credits.  
José del Valle. 

THEA 86000: Festive and Ritual Performance, GC: Tues, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. 3 credits. 
Erika Lin.