Byzantium and the Rise of Islam HIST5192

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Humanities
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

Byzantium, or the eastern Roman Empire, was the dominant power in the Mediterranean at the beginning of the seventh century, but a hundred years later, much of the Near East and North Africa were ruled by Umayyad caliphs, rulers who both followed a new religion, Islam, and held sway over lands well beyond Byzantium. Understanding these geopolitical, cultural, and religious changes involves an examination of the Byzantine background alongside wider Eurasian connections to the Arabian Peninsula, as well as engaging in ongoing historiographical debates. By surveying a broad range of textual and material sources from Britain to Iran, this course will assess the key changes and continuities of this transformative period in Europe, Asia, and Africa.


10 x 1 hour lectures and 10 x 1 hour seminars. This is an optional course and may not run every year. Courses running each session are available in MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level.

Excluded Courses

The Honours version of the same course.




Written work:

Final essay responding to set questions - 3,500 words - 70%


Oral assessment:

15-minute seminar presentation and responses to Q&A - 20%

Seminar participation - 10%

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity for students to:

■ appraise the political, cultural, and religious transformations that occurred in the seventh-century Near East

■ evaluate a wide range of primary sources and hone their skills in source criticism

■ apply effective communication skills through engaging with existing historiographical debates

■ formulate convincing arguments with evidence drawn from their historical research

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ assess key developments in the history of Byzantium and early Islam in the seventh century

■ evaluate key debates in the historiography of late antiquity and the early Middle Ages

■ critique interpretations of the evidence in seminar discussions and seminar presentations

■ construct persuasive historical arguments, both orally and in writing 

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.