Sicily in the eleventh and twelfth centuries had a Muslim population under the control of Latin Christian conquerors. This dissertation aims to assess the economic role that these Muslims played in Norman Sicily, and how that economic role tied them into the society of Norman Sicily in general. Muslims in Sicily were allowed considerable autonomy and tolerance by the Christian rulers of the island, and the tolerance shown to them was always tied to their usefulness to the crown. While their role in the administration of the Regno, how Muslims served the crown in that fashion, was important, I would argue that their economic role was just as important, particularly in the early years of Norman control. With Muslims making up the majority of merchants they provided an integral service in creating the vaunted wealth of the island. Beyond the role played by the commercial elite of the cities, the more humble Muslims of the island also played a vital economic role. They were the majority of cultivators, and agriculture was always the primary source of wealth of the island. They were also involved in other kinds of production, in particular in the textile trade. Because of this, they remained important to the counts and kings of Sicily after the Normans became more established in their rule. Their economic role fueled their coexistence with the Christians of the island.
With this coexistence, there were possibilities for close interactions between Christians and Muslims based on their economic role. Profit was also a powerful motivator that brought people together, and Christians and Muslims traded, even entering into partnerships and loaning money to one another. These close interactions could continue, even with the backdrop of inter-religious violence. Even the rising level of tension between Muslims and Christians could not end their mutually beneficial cross-cultural interactions. Because of these conditions in Norman Sicily, this dissertation proposes that it can serve as a case study for the role that commerce played in Christian-Muslim coexistence in the medieval Mediterranean.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. disseration. September 2009. Major: History. Advisor: Kathryn Reyerson. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 231 pages, appendix pages 228-231.
Smit, Timothy James.
Commerce and coexistence: Muslims in the economy and society of Norman Sicily..
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