History 490N (201) The Early Modern Mediterranean
This seminar will explore topics and debates in early modern Mediterranean history, 1450-1750. Historically and in current affairs, the Mediterranean is often portrayed as a ‘borderland’ or ‘frontier’ separating vastly different cultures and peoples: the Christian and Muslim worlds; Europe, Asia and Africa. Historians, however, have shown that the Mediterranean has been a space of constant entanglement and exchange, a “liquid continent” where societies and cultures met, overlapped and co-existed, sometimes peacefully, sometimes violently, since ancient times. In the early modern period, the cultural, religious, linguistic and even physical borders between Mediterranean societies were permeable and ill-defined: many people participated in several cultures and religions over the course of their lives, and thus embodied complex identities. Through a range of secondary and primary sources, we will explore the thoughts, beliefs, conditions of existence and life experiences of the women and men who crossed the Sea and lived on its shores. Our focus will be on the movement, both voluntary and forced, of individuals across the Mediterranean world, and the encounters and entanglements these produced. We will also consider questions of scale and perspective. Should the Mediterranean be studied as a coherent unit or be studied in parts? How do our understandings of the Mediterranean as a site of historical analysis change when examined from national, religious, gender, and linguistic perspectives, or when approached from the Sea’s eastern, western, northern or southern shores? How does our image change when we move from a macro to a micro-historical perspective?