Marcus Milwright


Marcus Milwright completed his D.Phil at the Oriental Institute of the University of Oxford in 1999. He joined the Department of History in Art in 2002. His research focuses upon the archaeology of the Islamic period, the art and architecture of the Islamic Middle East, cross-cultural interaction in the Medieval and early Modern Mediterranean, the history of medicine, craft practices in Late Ottoman Syria, and the architecture and civil engineering of southern Greece during the Ottoman sultanate. He is the author of two books: An Introduction to Islamic Archaeology, The New Edinburgh Islamic Surveys (Edinburgh University Press, 2010); and The Fortress of the Raven: Karak in the Middle Islamic Period (1100-1600), Islamic History and Civilization, Studies and Texts 72 (Brill, 2008). His articles have appeared in peer-reviewed journals including MuqarnasTurcicaJournal of the Royal Asiatic SocietyPalestine Exploration QuarterlyLevantMedieval Ceramicsal-Rafidan, and the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, and he has contributed chapters to The New Cambridge History of Islam (volumes 1 and 4), theEncyclopaedia of Islam Third Edition, and several other edited volumes. He has curated an exhibition, Steel: A Mirror of Life in Pre-Modern Iran, at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford (2001). He is currently working on a history of balsam in the Medieval period and a study of portraits of Muslim rulers in European printed books of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Paper Abstract:
Propaganda and Audience: Visual Culture and the Communication of Ideology in the Medieval Period

The Medieval period provides numerous examples of what might be defined in modern parlance as propaganda. These include the manufacture of ideologically-charged objects or paintings, the display and reuse of captured artefacts, and the organizing of victory parades following successful military campaigns. Clearly, such activities were meant to convey messages to the inhabitants of a given polity and to potential enemies or allies. This paper will concentrate upon key periods of conflict in the Medieval eastern Mediterranean, and question the extent to which visual culture was an effective tool for the communication of political and religious ideology. Central to this examination is the question of audience: how was that audience defined and how did this affect the production of physical artefacts designed to communicate ideology. The paper will also question the extent to which we can employ anachronistic terminology (such as the term, propaganda) and concepts in our evaluation of forms of Medieval communication.

Seminar Abstract:
Archaeology and the Expression of Personal and Group Identity in the Medieval Mediterranean

The Mediterranean region was home to an immensely diverse population through the Medieval period. One need only look at the ways in which individuals and groups sought to differentiate themselves – according to categories we might define today as confessional allegiance, ethnicity, tribal or familial affiliation, socio-economic level, education, or occupation – to understand the potential complexities involved in reconstructing past identities. As we might do today, Medieval men and women maintained overlapping identities, positioning themselves simultaneously in more than one social, cultural, or religious grouping. Identities might also change gradually over time or suddenly in reaction to external events, while death provided an opportunity for a given community to circumscribe the ways in which the deceased was to be remembered. Primary textual sources provide an avenue for tracking the shifting terrain of Medieval Mediterranean identities, and other valuable data can be drawn from art and architecture. This seminar session will evaluate the contribution made to this area of study by archaeology. Through a series of case studies we will examine different ways in which archaeology has illuminated the processes of identity creation and development around the Mediterranean. We will also look at the extent to which it is possible to correlate physical and textual data and the constraints that exist upon the interpretation of the archaeological record.

Primary Sources in Translation (Individual Works and Compilations):

  • Adler, Elkan Nathan, trans. and ed., Jewish Travellers in the Middle Ages (London: G. Routledge and Sons, 1930. Reprinted 2007).
  • Allen, S. J. and Emilie Amt, eds, The Crusades: A Reader. Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures 8 (North York: University of Toronto Press, 2010).
  • Al-Harawi, Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali b. Abi Bakr, Kitab al-isharat ila ma ‘rifat al-ziyarat, ed. Janine Sourdel-Thomine (Damascus: Institut Français de Damas, 1953). Translated: J. Sourdel-Thomine, Guide des lieux de pèlerinage (Damascus: Institut Français de Damas, 1957).
  • Ibn Jubayr, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, ed. W. Wright and revised by M. de Goeje (Leiden: Brill, 1907, reprinted London: E. J. W. Gibb Memorial Trust, 1949). Translated: Ronald Broadhurst, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr (London: Jonathan Cape, 1952).
  • William of Tyre, A History of Deeds done beyond the Sea, trans. Emily Babcock and August Krey (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976).

Secondary Sources:

  • Diaz-Andreu, Margarita, Sam Lucy, Staša Babić, and David Edwards, eds., The Archaeology of Identity: Approaches to Gender, Age, Status, Ethnicity and Religion. London: Routledge, 2005.
  • Edbury, Peter and Sophia Kalopissi-Verti, eds, Archaeology and the Crusades (Athens: Pierides Foundation, 2007).
  • Insoll, Timothy, ed., Archaeology of Identities: A Reader. London: Routledge, 2007.
  • Shennan, Stephen, ed., Archaeological Approaches to Cultural Identity. One World Archaeology. London and Boston: Unwin Hyman 1986.
  • Redford, Scott, The Archaeology of the Frontier in the Medieval Near East: Excavations at Gritille, Turkey, Archaeological Institute of America Monographs. New Series 3 (Boston: University Museum Publications, 1998).
  • Redman, Charles, Qsar es-Saghir: An archaeological View of Medieval Life (Orlando: Academic Press, 1986).
  • Silberman, Neal, Between and Present: Archaeology, Ideology and Nationalism in the Modern Middle East. New York: Holt, 1989.
  • Taylor, Christopher, In the Vicinity of the Righteous: Ziyara and the Veneration of Muslim Saints in Late Medieval Egypt, Islamic History and Civilization: Studies and Texts 22 (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 1999).
  • Whitcomb, Donald, ed., Changing Social Identities with the Spread of Islam: Archaeological Perspectives. Chicago: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago, 2005.

Contact Information: