Diverging Paths?

The Shapes of Power and Institutions in Medieval Christendom and Islam


Diverging Paths? investigates an important question, to which the answers must be very complex: “why did certain sorts of institutionalisation and institutional continuity characterise government and society in Christendom by the later Middle Ages, but not the Islamic world, whereas the reverse end-point might have been predicted from the early medieval situation?” This core question lies within classic historiographical debates, to which the essays in the volume, written by leading medievalists, make significant contributions. The papers, drawing on a wide range of evidence and methodologies, span the middle ages, chronologically and geographically. At the same time, the core question relates to matters of strong contemporary interest, notably the perceived characteristics of power exercised within Islamic Middle Eastern regimes.
Contributors are Stuart Airlie, Gadi Algazi, Sandro Carocci, Simone Collavini, Emanuele Conte, Nadia El Cheikh, Maribel Fierro, John Hudson, Caroline Humfress, Michel Kaplan, Hugh Kennedy, Simon MacLean, Eduardo Manzano, Susana Naroztky, Annliese Nef, Vivien Prigent, Ana Rodríguez, Magnus Ryan and Bernard Stolte.
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Biographical Note

John Hudson, DPhil (Oxford, 1988), is Professor of Legal History at the University of St Andrews and William W. Cook Global Law Professor at University of Michigan Law. His books include The Formation of the English Common Law (1996), an edition of The History of the Church of Abingdon (2002, 2007), and volume II of The Oxford History of the Laws of England.
Ana Rodríguez, Ph.D. (Madrid, 1992), is Scientific Researcher in the CCHS-CSIC. Her books include La consolidación territorial de la monarquía feudal castellana (1994); Beyond the Market. Transactions, property and social networks in monastic Galicia (co-author, 2002) and Objets sous contrainte. Circulation des richesses et valeur des choses au Moyen Âge (co-editor, 2013).

Review Quote

“This attention to one common question, along with a spirit of comparative analysis, gives the diverse chapters in this book an overarching unity, despite the diversity of approaches and subjects. …The whole is greater than the sum of its (for the most part excellent) parts. This volume is a model for collaborative comparative scholarship that deftly combines a diversity of approaches and subjects with unity of purpose.”
John Tolan, Université de Nantes, in Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. LXVIII, no. 4, Winter 2015

"This sophisticated volume illustrates the impressive, thought-provoking results an accomplished, diverse group of scholars can produce in pursuit of a simple and open-ended yet ultimately difficult and complicated question... The project took the same name now borne by this handsome volume and pursued a fascinating and timely inquiry into the comparative institutional development of societies of the premodern Mediterranean, a topic that has of course interested historians for generations. Yet with a plethora of highly trained and interested experts and arguably more collaboration between scholars working on the formerly much too isolated Islamic and Christian sides of the Mediterranean world (encouraged by numerous and proliferating networking associations), academia has never been better prepared to tackle such a project... It is uncommon to find an edited volume for which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Nevertheless, such is the case with Diverging Paths?, which manifests an impressive degree of synergy among its widely varied contributions... This well-presented volume offers its readers an array of perspectives on a subset of the comparative historical issues that are intriguing premodern scholars in a mode that will be challenging yet still accessible to non-specialists, while both highly engaging and valuable for experts."
Thomas W. Barton, University of San Diego, in The Medieval Review, 15.10.01

"On l’aura compris, Diverging Paths pose un jalon salutaire et extrêmement fertile pour les approches comparatistes méditerranéennes prémodernes. Notre recension ne rend qu’imparfaitement compte des résultats obtenus et des riches perspectives tracées par ce très dense ouvrage. Le prisme de l’institution et de ses formes tient ses promesses."
Sébastien Garnier, in Studia Islamica 111, 2016.

"...The general theme explored in the essays is how power is reflected in the institutions that developed around two of the three religions that claim belief in a single God, namely Christianity and Islam. The articles accurately reflect the title of this complex book, but explore ideas well beyond simple comparison and contrast. ...Most readers will not be across all fields. However, that is the point and the strength of such a book: to bring together scholars of varied backgrounds and to query the reader’s approaches and viewpoints. ... Diverging Paths? is a tightly integrated, complex text that explores the relationships between institutions via three key paths: law, resources and elite physical structures, but expands our ideas of all of these. It would be valuable for scholars who already have a reasonable knowledge of the Christian and Islamic histories of the early Middle Ages and would like to understand those world views using the tools of anthropology, law, history and sociology."
Penelope Nash, University of Sydney, in Royal Studies Journal II, 2015.

"The originality of this work largely lies in its careful and knowledgeable use of historical documents to engage with contemporary conceptions of ‘power and institutions’. The book dialogues with wider historiographical trends and with issues of contemporary politics, in a way that allows the authors to look at medieval sources from unexpected angles....[The book is] original, engaging, and valuable for scholars and students in the humanities and the social sciences beyond the geographic–cultural areas under examination."
Cecilia Palombo, Pirnceton University, in Early Medieval Europe 25, 2017.

Table of contents

John Hudson and Ana Rodríguez

List of Contributors ...xiv
Maps ...xvi

Part 1: Approaches and Explorations
1 Comparing Medieval Institutions: A Few Introductory Remarks...3
Gadi Algazi
2 Institutionalisation between Theory and Practice: Comparative Approaches to Medieval Islamic and Late Roman Law...16
Caroline Humfress
3 The Ḥisba, the Muḥtasib and the Struggle over Political Power and a Moral Economy: An Enquiry into Institutions...30
Susana Narotzky and Eduardo Manzano

Part 2: Themes and Investigations

Law and Codification...57
4 Codification in Byzantium: From Justinian to Leo VI ...59
Bernard H. Stolte
5 Codification in the Western Middle Ages... 75
Emanuele Conte and Magnus Ryan
6 Codifying the Law: The Case of the Medieval Islamic West ...98
Maribel Fierro
7 Law and Codification: Conclusion...1...19
John Hudson

Resources and Power...123
8 The Cost of States: Politics and Exactions in the Christian West (Sixth to Fifteenth Centuries)...125
Sandro Carocci and Simone M. Collavini
9 Landholding and Law in the Early Islamic State...159
Hugh Kennedy
10 The Mobilisation of Fiscal Resources in the Byzantine Empire (Eighth to Eleventh Centuries)...182
Vivien Prigent
11 State, Aggregation of the Elites and Redistribution of Resources in Sicily in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries: Proposals for a New Interpretation...230
Annliese Nef
12 Resources and Power: Conclusion...248
Eduardo Manzano

Palaces and Places...253
13 The Palace Complex...255
Stuart Airlie
14 Palaces, Itineraries and Political Order in the Post-Carolingian Kingdoms...291
Simon MacLean
15 Monasteries: Institutionalisation and Organisation of Space in the Byzantine World until the End of the Twelfth Century...321
Michel Kaplan
16 The Institutionalisation of ʿAbbāsid Ceremonial...351
Nadia Maria El Cheikh
17 Palaces and Places: Conclusion...371
Ana Rodríguez

Index of Names and Places...426


The main readership will be postgraduates and academics in medieval history. There should also be interest from other historians and from social scientists interested in processes of institutionalisation.