Author Archives: Ruth

Ibn Khaldun asks tough questions, 1377

The Ibn Khaldun family were descended from a Bedouin, Khaldun, who settled near Seville in the early years of Muslim conquest. Under Reconquista pressure in the 13th century, they moved to Tunis, where they were among the educated governing elite. … Continue reading

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Ibn Battuta Sees the World and Meets Hermits, 1325-55

The Muslim world had grown so large that it was very hard for them to know all parts of their own lands, let alone the rest of the world. Around 1355, a Moroccan named Ibn Battuta dictated and published his … Continue reading

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The Plague on the Silk Road, 1330-1350

Some time during a world history survey course in high school, or perhaps in a good documentary on the History Channel, you learned that medieval Europeans didn’t realize that rats carried fleas that carried Yersinia pestis bacteria. They were used … Continue reading

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North Africa in the 14th century

North Africa’s Muslim story in the 14th century mostly stars a Moroccan dynasty we call the Marinids, after their founder whose first name was Marin. They were Berbers of the Zenata tribe, locked in long rivalry and conflict with other … Continue reading

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The Alhambra Palace, 1333

In 1333, Emir Yusuf began to build the splendid palace that came to be known as The Red Fort, Qalat al-Hamra: the Alhambra. His reign and his son’s spanned most of the 1300s and established the palace that we tour … Continue reading

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Game of Mamluk Thrones, 1290-1330

The Mamluks governed based on competence, in a time when governance was always based on inheritance. They didn’t come up with a framework for peaceful transfers of power or group selection of the leader. Instead, they functioned like a monarchy … Continue reading

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The First Ottomans and the Last Ilkhan, 1302-1337

In 1280, a Turk named Osman became the Bey of Söğüt, Turkey, and over the next 20 years, he took control of neighboring tribes and towns. His son Orhan named the new group the “Osmanlı,” or as we would say … Continue reading

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The Last of the Templars, 1307

By the end of the 13th century, the Order of Knights of the Temple had received so much property as charitable gifts that they were wealthier than many kings. A large number of their members were involved not in protecting … Continue reading

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Mamluks vs. Mongols, 1299

I have it marked down as an important battle: the Third Battle of Homs in 1299, when the Mongols defeated the Mamluks after two previous losses at the same place. But when I look at it more closely, I’m not … Continue reading

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Marco Polo and the Golden Ticket, 1299

We owe the first descriptions of Xanadu and Khanbalik (Beijing) to Marco Polo of Venice, whose book was published in 1299, co-written by Rusticello of Pisa. The book was quickly translated into many languages; the oldest manuscript we have is … Continue reading

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