For a military clash that didn’t involve that many soldiers, the 1805 Battle of Derna has a lot of symbolic importance. For one thing, it was the final and most decisive battle of the First Barbary War, arguably the first overseas war the United States ever fought (unless you count the 1798-1800 Quasi-War against the … Continue reading Today in North African history: the Battle of Derna ends (1805)
Prince Henry the Navigator (d. 1460) is one of those Portuguese guys you spend a few minutes on in high school history class in the US at the start of the Age of Discovery unit, in the rush to get to Columbus. But he’s a much more consequential figure than generally regarded. The explorations Henry … Continue reading Today in North African history: the Battle of Tangier ends (1437)
I've been continuing to track Ibn Battuta's journey across North Africa on Twitter, Facebook, and at TheRihlah.com. Today we brought him as far as Alexandria, ready to enter the Mamluk Sultanate and begin the next part of his expedition: Last time we saw Ibn Battuta through the Kingdom of Tlemcen, which at the time was … Continue reading The Rihlah: Ibn Battuta’s 1325, part 3 (subscriber post)
I'm kicking off my new "Ibn Battuta's Journey" project over at TheRihlah.com this weekend, and our first serious post talks about who Ibn Battuta was and what he did. Please check it out: Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Abdullah al-Lawati al-Tangi ibn Battuta, or “Ibn Battuta” for short, was born in the Moroccan city of Tangier … Continue reading The Rihlah: Who was Ibn Battuta?
Some days there are a bunch of little historical anniversaries to commemorate, but none that of themselves seem to warrant their own post. June 10 is one of those days. We’ve got four different anniversaries to note, so let’s take them in chronological order. This is just a placeholder. If you’d like to read the … Continue reading Today in European/Middle Eastern history: Frederick Barbarossa drowns (1190) and more
Prince Henry the Navigator (d. 1460) is one of those Portuguese guys you spend a few minutes on in high school history class in the rush to get to Columbus. He’s an important figure. The explorations Henry sponsored were the first Portuguese voyages along the Atlantic coast of Africa, and later explorers like Bartolomeu Dias … Continue reading Today in North African history: the Battle of Tangier ends (1437)
The 1578 Battle of Alcácer Quibir is an interesting case of unintended consequences. The product of a Portuguese attempt to exploit a succession crisis in Morocco, its outcome actually helped create a succession crisis in Portugal. The situation in Morocco was a pretty straightforward usurpation. The Bani Zaydan, also known as the Saadis, were the … Continue reading Today in European history: the Battle of Alcácer Quibir (1578)
June 29, 1881: Sudanese Sufi leader Muhammad Ahmad declares that he is the Mahdi. This inaugurated the Mahdist War with Egypt and, later, Britain, which lasted until 1899.
Allow me to introduce a word that may be unfamiliar to some of you: Alid. In Middle Eastern studies, “Alid” refers to descendants of Ali, so it’s related to Shiʿism (which comes from shiʿat ʿAli, or “the partisans of Ali”) though clearly not synonymous with that term. Where the two terms can overlap and become … Continue reading Today in North African history: the Battle of Fakhkh (786)
Islamic History Series I feel pretty certain that nowadays we would point to the advent of Islam as the most important development of the movement that Muhammad began in Mecca and Medina in the first part of the 7th century. However, to contemporary observers in the period immediately following his death, it must have seemed … Continue reading Islamic History, part 30: the early Islamic military (7th-9th centuries CE)