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Hazard, H. W. (ed.) / Volume III: The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries

XIII: Moslem North Africa, 1049-1394,   pp. 457-485 PDF (25.3 MB)

Page 460

English language, for example, there is no complete scholarly history of
North Africa between the Arab conquest of the seventh century and the Turkish
conquest of the sixteenth, nor a single translation of more than a few pages
of any of the Arabic historians named in the bibliographical note. 
This neglect does not signify any presumptive unimportance of North Africa,
either relative or absolute. The southern coast of the Mediterranean played,
during the crusading period, a larger role in human history than at any time
after the fall of Carthage, larger than at any subsequent time until the
brief struggle in 1942—1943 be tween the Allied and Axis military forces.
Morocco, for instance, supplied two Berber waves which successively within
a century's span swept over Spain, postponing and endangering the Christian
recon quest.2 Tunisia, where the Fãtimids of Egypt had originated,
pro vided the most logical and powerful claimant to the caliphate when the
Fãtimids, and their ' Abbasid rivals, collapsed within the period
of the crusades. Finally, it was with North Africa that Sicily maintained
the continuous commercial and sporadic military contacts which made the island
realm a center for transmission of Islamic culture to western Europe second
only to Andalusia, and far more important than Constantinople, Frankish Greece,
Cyprus, or the crusader prin cipalities on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean.
For our purposes, as for those of all medieval Moslems, "North Africa" extends
from about 25 degrees east longitude, the western boundary of Egypt then
and now, westward between the desert and the Mediterranean in a gradually
widening strip which reaches its greatest breadth near the Atlantic Ocean.
This area has always been geographically and historically a single unit,
clearly demarcated from Egypt to the east and from the Sahara and Sudan to
the south; during these three and a half centuries continuous contacts were
maintained with both, but on a smaller scale and with less effect than those
with Spain and Sicily. This two-thousand-mile sweep includes part or all
of the modern regions of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco;
from 1160 to 1230 under the Muwahhids and briefly about 1347 and in 1357
under the Marinids they were, except Cyrenaica, subject to the rule of a
single monarch, a historical phenomenon which had not occurred since Roman
times and has not since been repeated. 
If the closing date adopted, 1394, is partly historiographical and 
2. See above, chapter XII. 

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