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Matters of Humanities

‘Islam and Muslims are not something that happened to Europe; they are part of Europe. In fact, Islam is one the biggest constants in European history,’ argues Professor Maurits Berger in the new eight-part Matters of Humanities: History of Islam in Europe podcast series of the Leiden University Faculty of Humanities.

History of Islam in Europe

Berger: 'If Europeans were ever looking for a 'European story' that touches all European nations, then this is definitely one of those stories.'

Listen to the trailer

Episode 1 – The third wave

Were the Muslims set on conquering Europe? And how did Europeans respond? In this first episode, I will tell the stories of the first encounters between Europe and Islam. Everyone knows about the Muslim conquest of Spain, of course, but there were also encounters with Normans, Franks and Byzantines. These encounters sometimes came in the form of wars, mostly there was a lot of raiding, but there was trade and diplomacy too.

Episode 2. Image of Islam

What did Europeans think of the Muslims who had been entering Europe since the eight century? Was it just another group of warriors, like the Vikings in the north and the Huns in the east? Or were they seen as a new religion, perhaps even a challenge to Christianity? In the previous episode we talked about the wars of conquest and raids undertaken by the Muslim Arabs. We have seen that raiding and conquering was done by everyone, everywhere. But a question that has been preoccupying many academics and observers is whether the Muslims were perhaps conquering for another reason, and that is: to spread Islam.

Episode 3. Living together

In the first episode of this podcast I mentioned king Otto, who had thrown out the Arab warlords from southern France. As a thank you, the pope crowned him king of the Christians in Europe, and Otto would build an enormous empire in central Europe that became known as the Holy Roman Empire. This same king Otto was trying to establish good relations with the Arab Muslims in Spain.

Episode 4. Was Europe united against the Muslims?

In the next three episode we will take a closer look at the relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. That period was dominated by the presence of the Ottomans, and in today's episode we will take a closer look at this new player in Europe, and how this empire related to other European states, and how its religiously mixed society looked like.

Episode 5. Better to be a Muslim than a Catholic

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries one could hardly speak of Christian or European unity against a Muslim enemy. We have seen that this was because of the political divisions in Europe. In this episode we will discuss another reason for the lack of European unity, and that is religious divisions.

Episode 6. Turquerie

In the eighteenth century, the Europeans became infatuated with all things 'Oriental' and 'Turkish'. At the same time, there was an increase in trade and diplomacy with the Ottoman empire. 

Episode 7. The disappearance and reappearance of Muslims in Europe

By the end of the first world war, the Ottoman Empire had ceased to exist, and few Muslims still lived in Europe. That changed in the 1970s, when new Muslim communities were established in Europe by means of migration.

Episode 8. The legacy of Islam

Muslims have been living in eastern parts of Europe for centuries. Since the 1970s, the presence of Muslims has also become a fact of life in other parts of Europe. In this last episode we will discuss where Europe and its Islam stand in the twenty-first century. Is it a continuation of the past, or are Europe and its Muslims sharing different worlds? 

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