Congratulations to the following authors! Their books have been shortlisted for the 2019 Middle East Medievalists Book Prize.

The winner will be announced in New Orleans on November 14 at the business meeting of Middle East Medievalists, held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association (please do join us in Sheraton 4-Bayside B, 3-5 pm).

This year’s Prize Committee is chaired by Zayde Antrim, and includes Najam Haider, Konrad Hirschler, and Sara Wolper.

Elizabeth A. Lambourn, Abraham’s Luggage: A Social Life of Things in the Medieval Indian Ocean World. Cambridge University Press, 2018. ISBN: 978-1107173880.

From a single merchant’s list of baggage begins a history that explores the dynamic world of medieval Indian Ocean exchanges. This fresh and innovative perspective on Jewish merchant activity shows how this list was a component of broader trade connections that developed between the Islamic Mediterranean and South Asia in the Middle Ages. Drawing on a close reading of this unique twelfth-century document, found in the Cairo Genizah and written in India by North African merchant Abraham Ben Yiju, Lambourn focuses on the domestic material culture and foods that structured the daily life of such India traders, on land and at sea. This is an exploration of the motivations and difficulties of maintaining homes away from home, and the compromises that inevitably ensued. Abraham’s Luggage demonstrates the potential for writing challenging new histories in the accidental survival of apparently ordinary ephemera.

Yossef Rapoport. Rural Economy and Tribal Society in Islamic Egypt: A Study of al-Nābulusī’s Villages of the Fayyum. Brepols, 2018. ISBN: 978-2503575186.

The Villages of the Fayyum is a unique and unparalleled thirteenth-century Arabic tax register of the province of the Fayyum in Middle Egypt. Based on this tax-register, this book utilises quantitative research methods and spatial GIS analysis to provide a rich account of the rural economy of the medieval Fayyum, the tribal organization of the village communities, and their rights and duties in relation to the military landholders. It also draws on the rich documentary evidence of the Fayyum, which stretches back to the Greco-Roman and early Islamic periods, to trace the transformation of the Fayyum into a Muslim-majority and Arab province. This volume thus offers a radically new perspective on the social and economic history of the medieval Islamic countryside. It makes a major contribution to the history of Islamic Egypt, its rural economy, and to our understanding of taxation and administration under the Ayyubids. Most importantly, its argument for the metamorphosis of the Coptic peasantry into Muslim and tribal Arab society has profound implications for Middle Eastern history in general, and challenges our modern concept of Arab identity.

Lev E. Weitz. Between Christ and Caliph: Law, Marriage, and Christian Community in Early Islam. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018. ISBN: 978-0812250275.

In Between Christ and Caliph, Lev E. Weitz examines the multiconfessional society of early Islam through the lens of shifting marital practices of Syriac Christian communities. In response to the growth of Islamic law and governance in the seventh through tenth centuries, Syriac Christian bishops created new laws to regulate marriage, inheritance, and family life. The bishops banned polygamy, required that Christian marriages be blessed by priests, and restricted marriage between cousins, seeking ultimately to distinguish Christian social patterns from those of Muslims and Jews. Through meticulous research into rarely consulted Syriac and Arabic sources, Weitz traces the ways in which Syriac Christians strove to identify themselves as a community apart while still maintaining a place in the Islamic social order. By binding household life to religious identity, Syriac Christians developed the social distinctions between religious communities that came to define the medieval Islamic Middle East. Ultimately, Between Christ and Caliph argues that interreligious negotiations such as these lie at the heart of the history of the medieval Islamic empire.