Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
History Professor Stephen Bensch began the spring Faculty Lecture Series with his talk this Wednesday. Bensch, a specialist in Medieval Europe and the Near East and the coordinator of the College’s Medieval Studies program, delivered a detailed lecture entitled “Turning Away from the Crusades: Christians and Muslims in the Medieval Maghrib.”
Contrary to popular belief, argues Bensch, the Crusades do not stand out as a period of significant cultural exchange between Europeans and Middle Easterners, particularly when viewed in the context of centuries of contact. “The West was rising,” he said, “but it was a Muslim and a Christian West in tandem.” He focused on the role of the Maghrib–western North Africa–in the cultural exchanges of the 11th- and 12th-century Mediterranean world. This unconventional but sensible point of focus gave the audience a fresh perspective; as Bensch noted during the question-and-answer session, “North Africa has been very undervalued – when you think of this period, it’s not the first thing that comes to mind.”
The Faculty Lecture Series will continue on Wednesday, February 20th with a lecture by History Professor Pieter Judson. These lectures are free and open to the public.