Beyond the Crusades

Muneeza Shamsie in Newsweek Pakistan:

This January, Hussein Fancy, an American academic of Pakistani origin, received the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize, awarded annually by the American Historical Association “to honor a distinguished book published in English in the field of European history,” for his groundbreaking work The Mercenary Mediterranean: Sovereignty, Religion, and Violence in the Medieval Crown of Aragon. This isn’t the first prize awarded to this book: it had earlier been the recipient of the Jans F. Verbruggen Prize from De Re Militari for the best book in medieval military history and the L. Carl Brown AIMS Book Prize in North African Studies. These three very different prizes, each with different parameters, indicate the range and importance of Fancy’s research.

Through his exploration of the relationship between the Christian kings of Aragon in medieval Spain and their privileged, deeply religious Muslim soldiers, the jenets in the 13th and 14th centuries, Fancy sheds new light into “the interactions between Muslims and Christians in the Middle Ages” in a bid to “rethink the study of religion more broadly.” He questions the view of modern scholars that these Muslim-Christian alliances were essentially political and secular. He concludes instead that the Muslim jenetswere deeply religious. They were originally Berbers from North Africa where they were known as al Ghuzah al Mujahid and their collaboration with the Christian kings of Aragon “was neither opposed to something called religion, nor reducible to it.”

More here.