Magic in Malta: Sellem bin al-Sheikh Mansur and the Roman Inquisition, 1605


In this volume, a microhistorical approach is employed to provide a transcription, translation, and case-study of the proceedings (written in Latin, Italian and Arabic) of the Roman Inquisition on Malta’s 1605 trial of the ‘Moorish’ slave Sellem Bin al-Sheikh Mansur, who was accused and found guilty of practising magic and teaching it to the local Christians. Through both a detailed commentary and individual case-studies, it assesses what these proceedings reflect about religion, society, and politics both on Malta and more widely across the Mediterranean in the early 17th century. In so doing, this inter- and multi-disciplinary project speaks to a wide range of subjects, including magic, Christian-Muslim relations, slavery, Maltese social history, Mediterranean history, and the Roman Inquisition. It will be of interest to both students and researchers who study any of these subjects, and will help demonstrate the richness and potential of the documents in the Maltese archives.
With contributions by: Joan Abela, Dionisius A. Agius, Paul Auchterlonie, Jonathan Barry, Charles Burnett, Frans Ciappara, Pierre Lory, Alex Malett, Ian Netton, Catherine R. Rider, Liana Saif

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Alex Mallett is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of International Research and Education and a member of the team of the Chair of the State of Qatar for Islamic Area Studies at Waseda University, Tokyo. He researches Christian-Muslim relations in the pre-modern Mediterranean, and particularly interactions between subaltern Muslims and Christians of Western Europe and narratives of encounters between Muslims and Christians. Catherine Rider is Associate Professor in Medieval History at the University of Exeter. Her research focuses on the history of magic, medicine, and the Church in the medieval period. She is the author of Magic and Religion in Medieval England and Magic and Impotence in the Middle Ages. Dionisius A. Agius is Emeritus Al-Qasimi Professor of Arabic Studies and Islamic Material Culture at the University of Exeter, and an Affiliate Professor at King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah. He is an Arabist and ethnographer with expertise in the maritime landscapes and author of many books on the Mediterranean and Western Indian Ocean. He is a Fellow of the British Academy

List of Illustrations and Figures
Arabic Transliteration System
Notes on Contributors

Alex Mallett, Dionisius A. Agius and Catherine Rider

Part 1

1 The Trial of Sellem bin al-Sheikh Mansur before the Roman Inquisition on Malta, 1605: Transcription and Translation
Alex Mallett and Catherine Rider

Part 2

2 The Trial of Sellem: A Microhistorical Commentary
Alex Mallett and Catherine Rider

Part 3

3 Sellem Bin al-Sheikh Mansur: A Muslim Magician in Catholic Malta
Joan Abela

4 The Cognitive Landscape of Seventeenth-Century Malta: Communicating Information in a Cosmopolitan Society
Dionisius A. Agius

5 The Maltese Inquisition: Expectations and Evidence in the Sellem Case
Jonathan Barry

6 The Witch and the Judge: Sellem before the Roman Inquisition, 1605
Frans Ciappara

7 An Anthropology of Confessional Practice Regarding Magic in Early Seventeenth-Century Malta: Liminality, Communitas, Exclusion
Ian R. Netton

Part 4

8 Magic and Divination Lost in Translation: A Cairene in a Maltese Inquisition
Liana Saif

9 Geomancy, Divination, and Islam
Pierre Lory

10 Learned and Common Magic in the Trial of Sellem
Catherine Rider

11 Measurement and Magic: Some Notes on the Texts on Measurement in the Inquisition Documents against Sellem the Moor
Charles Burnett

12 Magic in Ottoman North Africa, 1570–1700, as seen through European Eyes
Paul Auchterlonie

Part 5

13 Concluding Remarks
Alex Mallett, Catherine Rider and Dionisius A. Agius

Appendix 1: Evidence Presented to the Inquisition by Vittorio Cassar: Instructions for Mathematics and the Practise of Geomancy
Alex Mallett and Catherine Rider
Appendix 2: Tabula Sybillum
Alex Mallett and Catherine Rider
This book will be of interest to students and scholars of Maltese and Mediterranean history, the history of magic, Christian-Muslim relations, as well as numerous other related subjects.
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