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The Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean: Methods of Material Culture in the 20th Century

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The Mediterranean was not only the center of European civilization for a very long time, it was also at the center of the revolution in 20th-century historiography that put material evidence and the forms of its narration at the core of the historian’s practice, from Pirenne’s Mohammed and Charlemagne (1935) through Braudel’s Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (1949) to Goitein’s Mediterranean Society (1966–88), McCormick’s Origins of the European Economy (2001), and Wickham’s Framing the Early Middle Ages (2005). The course studies this revolution in which advances in knowledge are linked to advances in method; improved answers to better, more interesting questions. In terms of content we explore the history of the sea’s civilizations from the 8th to the 17th centuries. Special attention is paid to the way in which the Mediterranean served as the semipermeable membrane across which the civilizations of Islam and Christianity communicated and the way in which commerce functioned. Also important is the role of archaeology in breaking open our understanding of the Mediterranean past. A concluding section of the course focuses on the instructor’s work of recovering the Mediterranean project of the 17th-century Provençal antiquary Peiresc. This provides an opportunity to draw together and evaluate the resources offered by the earlier scholarship. 3 credits.