Why did the new religion of Islam arise in the Arabian Peninsula, and what outside factors
influenced Muhammad’s religious messages?
What factors created common cultural outlook among Muslim communities in Afro-Eurasia
during this era?
How did the Tang state balance its restoration of Confucian principles with the growth of new
To what extent did the Japanese and Korean polities imitate Tang China?
How did two Christianities come to exist in Afro-Eurasia?
1. The universalizing religion of Islam, based on the message of the prophet Muhammad, originates
on the Arabian Peninsula and spreads rapidly across Afro-Eurasia.
2. Two distinctly different imperial powerhouses—Islam and Tang China—dominate much of Afro-
3. Christianity splits over doctrinal and political differences, leading to a western church based on the
papacy in Rome and Eastern Orthodoxy based in Constantinople.
Faith and Empire:
The Islamic Empire:
Warriors from the Arabian Peninsula defeat Byzantine and Sasanian armies and establish an
Islamic empire stretching from Morocco to South Asia
The Abbasid state takes over from the Umayyads, crystallizes the main Islamic institutions of the
caliphate and Islamic law, and promotes cultural achievements in religion, philosophy, and science
Disputes over Muhammad’s succession lead to a deep and enduring spilt between Sunnis and
The Tang dynasty dominates East Asia, including Japan and Korea
Tang dynastys balance Confucian ideals with a Buddhist thought and practice
A common written language and shared philosophy, rather than a universalizing religion, integrate
the Chinese state
Monks, nuns, and Rome-based popes spread Christianity throughout western Europe
Constantinople-based Eastern Orthodoxy survives the spread of Islam
Caliphate—institution that arose as the successor to Muhammad’s leadership and became both the political
and religious head of the Islamic community. Although the caliphs exercised political authority over the
Muslim community and were the head of the religious community, the ummah, they did not inherit
Muhammad’s prophetic powers and were not authorities in religious doctrine.
Christendom—entire portion of the world in which Christianity prevailed.
Civil service examinations—the world’s first written civil service examination system, instituted by the
Tang dynasty to recruit officials and bureaucrats. Open to most males, the exams tested a candidate’s
literacy skills and knowledge to the Confucian classics. They helped to unite the Chinese state by making
knowledge of a specific language and Confucian classics the only route to power.
Eunuchs—loyal and well-paid men who were surgically castrated as youths and remained in service to the
caliph or emperor. Both Abbasid and Tang rulers relied for protection on a cadre of eunuchs.
Greek Orthodoxy—enduring form of Christianity that used the framework of the “Roman” state inherited
from Constantine and Justinian to protect itself from Roman Catholicism and Muslim forces. The Greek
Orthodox capital was Constantinople and its spiritual empire included Russian peoples, Baltic Slavs, and
peoples living in southwest Asia.
Islam—a religion that dates to 610 CE, when Muhammad believed God came to him in a vision. Islam
(“submission”—in this case, to the will of God) requires its followers to act righteously, to submit
themselves to the one and only true God, and to care for the less fortunate. Muhammad’s most insistent
message was the oneness of God, a belief that has remained central to Islam faith ever since.
Meritocracy—rules by persons of talent. Monasticism—Christian was of life that originated in Egypt and was practiced as early as 300 CE in the
Mediterranean. The word itself contains the meaning of a person “living alone” without marriage or family.
Muhammad—Prophet and founder of the Islamic faith. Born in Mecca in Saudi Arabia and orphaned
when young, Muhammad lived under the protection of his uncle. His career as a prophet began around 610
CE, with his first experience of spiritual revelation.
Quran—the scripture of the Islamic faith. Originally a verbal recitation, the Quran was eventually
compiled into a book in the order in which we have it today. According to traditional Islamic interpretation,
the Quran was revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel over a period of twenty-three years.
Roman Catholicism—branch of Christianity established by 1000 CE in western Europe and led by the
Roman papacy. In contrast to ancient Greek Orthodoxy, Western Catholics believed that their church was
destined to expand everywhere, and they set about converting the pagan tribes of northern Europe. Western
Catholics contemptuously called East Romans “Greeks” and condemned them for their “Byzantine”
Sharia—literally, “the way”; now used to indicate the philosophy and rulings of Islamic law.
Shiites—group of supporter of Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, who wanted him to be the first
caliph and believed that members of the Prophet’s family deserved to rule. The leaders of the Shiite
community are known as “Imam” which means “leaders.”
Sunnis—Orthodox Muslims. The majority sect of Islam, Sunnis originally supported the succession of Abu
Bakr over Ali and supported the rule of consensus rather than family lineage for the succession to the
Tang Dynasty—regime that promoted a cosmopolitan culture, turning China into the hub of East Asia
cultural integration, while expanding the borders of the empires. In order to govern such a diverse empire,
the Tang established a political culture and civil service based on Confucian teachings. Candidates for the
civil service were required to take examinations, the first of their kind in the world.
Ulama—Arabic word that means “learned ones” or “scholars”; used for those who devoted themselves to
the knowledge of Islamic sciences.
Vikings—a people from Scandinavia who replaced the Franks as the dominant warrior class in the ninth
century. They used their superior ships to loot other seagoing peoples and sailed up the rivers of central
Russia to establish a trade route that connected Scandinavia and the Baltic with Constantinople and
Baghdad. The Vikings established settlements in Iceland and Greenland, and, briefly, North America.
What factors led to the explosion of global trading between 1000- and 1300?
How did trade and migration affect sub-Saharan Africa between 1000-1300?
How did trade, conversion and migration affect the Islamic world between 1000-1300?
In what ways did India remain a cultural mosaic?
What transformations in communication, education, and commerce promoted a distinct Chinese
identity during this era?
How were Southeast Asia, Japan, and Korea influenced by sustained contact with other regions?
How did Christianity produce a distinct identity among the diverse peoples of Europe?
Where did societies in the Americas demonstrate strong commercial expansionist impulses?
How did Mongol conquests affect cross-cultural contacts and regional development in Afro-
1. Trade routes shift from land to sea, transforming coastal cities into global trading hubs and
elevating Afro-Eurasian trade to unprecedented levels.
2. Intensified trade, linguistic, and religious integration generate the foundational cultural spheres
that we recognize today: China, India, Islam, and Europe.
3. The rise of the Mongol Empire integrates the world’s foundational cultural spheres.
Foundational Cultural Spheres:
The Islamic World:
Islam undergoes a burst of expansion, prosperity, and cultural diversification but remains
politically fractured Arab merchants and Sufi mystics spread Islam over great distances and make it more appealing to
other cultures, helping to transform Islam into a foundational world
Islam travels across Sahara Desert; the powerful gold- and slave-supplying empire of Mali arises
in West Africa
The Song dynasty reunites China after three centuries of fragmented ruler ship, reaching into the
past to re-establish a sense of a “true” Chinese identity as the Han, through the widespread print of
culture and denigration of outsiders
Breakthroughs in iron metallurgy allow agricultural expansion to support 120 million people and
undergird Han commercial success
China undergoes he world’s first manufacturing revolution: gunpowder, porcelain, and handicrafts
and produced on a large scale for widespread consumption
India remains a mosaic under the canopy of Hinduism despite cultural interconnections and
The invasion on Turkish Muslims leads to the Delhi Sultanate, which rules over India for three
centuries, strengthening cultural diversity and tolerance
Catholicism becomes a “mass” faith and helps to create a common European cultural identity
An emphasis on religious education spawns numerous universities and new intellectual elite
Feudalism causes fundamental reordering of the elite—peasant relationship, leading to agricultural
and commercial expansion
Europe’s growing confidence is manifest in the Crusades and Reconquista, an effort to drive Islam
out of Christian lands
Angkor Wat—magnificent Khmer Vaishnavite temple that crowned the royal palace in Angkor. It had
statues representing the Hindu pantheon of gods.
Cahokia—commercial center for regional and long-distance trade in North America. Its hinterlands
produced staples for urban consumers. In return, its crafts were exported inland by porters and to North
American markets in canoes.
Crusades—wave of attacks launched in the late eleventh century by western Europeans. The first crusade
began in 1095, when Pope Urban II appealed to the warrior nobility of France to free Jerusalem from
Muslim rule. Four subsequent Crusades were fought over the next two centuries.
Delhi Sultanate—Turkish regime of Northern India. The regime strengthened the cultural diversity and
tolerance that were a hallmark of Indian social order, which allowed it to bring about political integration
without enforcing cultural homogeneity.
Dhows—ships used by Arab seafarers; the dhow’s large sails were rigged to maximize the capture of wind.
Entrepots—trading stations at the borders between communities, which made exchange possible among
many different partners. Long-distance traders could also replenish their supplies at these stations.
Feudalism—system instituted in medieval Europe after the collapse of the Carolingian Empire whereby
each peasant was under the authority of a lord.
Karim—loose confederation of shippers banding together to protect convoys.
Kubilai Khan—Mongol leader who seized southern China after 1260 and founded the Yuan dynasty.
Mongols—combination of nomadic forest and prairie peoples who lived by hunting and livestock herding
and were expert horsemen. Beginning in 1206, the Mongols launched a series of conquests that brought far-
flung parts of the world together under their rule. By incorporating conquered peoples and adapting some
of their customs, the Mongols created a unified empire that stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the shores
of the eastern Mediterranean and the southern steppes of Eurasia.
Piety— strong sense of religious duty and devoutness, often inspiring extraordinary action.
Rajas—“king” in the Kshatriya period in South Asia; could also refer to the head of a family.
Sufism—emotional and mystical form of Islam that appealed to the common people.
Sultans—Islamic political leader. In the Ottoman Empire, the sultan combined a warrior ethos with an
unwavering devotion to Islam.
Chapter 11: Focus Questions:
Why was the plague so devastation, and what were the key factors in rebuilding societies after is
What were the major differences among the three Islamic dynasties?
How did the disasters of the fourteenth century change Western Christendom?
How did the Ming centralize their authority?
1. The Black Death spreading out of Inner Asia brings a staggering loss of life, claiming one-third of
2. Afro-Eurasians remake their societies in the wake of the plague’s devastation.
3. Something old remains: religious beliefs and institutions. And something new appears: radically
different imperial dynasties in Europe, Anatolia, Persia (Iran), India, and China.
Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal empires replace the Mongols
Ottomans overrun Constantinople and become the primary Sunni regime in the Islamic world
Safavids come to power in Iran as a Shiite state less tolerant of diversity than the Ottomans
Mughals replace the Delhi Sultanate in South Asia and continue to accommodate diverse religious
The Ming dynasty replaces the Mongol Yuan dynasty and rebuilds a strong state from the ground
An elaborate, centralized bureaucracy oversees the revival of infrastructure and long-distance
Devastation from the Black Death provokes revolt and extremist religious movements
New national monarchies appear in Portugal, Spain, France, and England
A rebirth of classical learning (the Renaissance) originates in Italian city-states and spreads
throughout western Europe
Black Death—great epidemic of the bubonic plague that ravaged Europe, East Asia, and North Africa in
the fourteenth century, killing large numbers, including perhaps as many as one-third of the European
Dynasty—hereditary ruling family that passed control from one generation to the next.
English Peasants’ Revolt—uprising of serfs and free farm workers that began as a protest against a tax
levied to raise money for a war on France. The revolt was suppressed but led to the gradual emergence of a
free peasantry as labour shortages made it impossible to keep peasants bound to the soil.
Humanism—the Renaissance aspiration to know more about the human experience beyond what the
Christian scriptures offered by reaching back into ancient Greek and Roman texts.
Inquisition—tribunal of the Roman Catholic Church that enforced religious orthodoxy during the
Jacquerie—French peasant revolt in defiance of feudal restrictions.
Khan—ruler who was acclaimed at an assembly of elites and supposedly descended from Chinggis Khan
on the male line; those not descended from Chinggis continually faced challenges to their legitimacy.
Monarchy—political system in which one individual holds supreme power and passes that power on to his
or her next of kin.
Moors—term employed by Europeans in the medieval period to refer to Muslim occupants of North
Africa, the western Sahara, and the Iberian Peninsula.
Ottoman Empire—rulers of Anatolia, the Arab world, and much of southern and eastern Europe in the
early sixteenth century. They transformed themselves from nomadic warrior bands who roamed the
borderlands between Islamic and Christian worlds in Anatolia into sovereigns of a vast, bureaucratic
empire. The Ottomans embraced a Sunni view of Islam. The adapted traditional Byzantine governmental
practices but tried new ways of integrating the diverse peoples of their empire.
Red Turban Movement—diverse religious movement in China during the fourteenth century that spread
the belief that the world was drawing to an end as Mongol rule was collapsing. Renaissance—term meaning “rebirth” that historians use to characterize the expanded cultural production
of European nations between 1430 and 1550. Emphasized a break from the church-centered medieval
world and a new concept of the world.
Shah—traditional title of Persian rulers.
Sikhism—Islamic-inspired religion that calls on its followers to renounce the caste system and to treat all
believers as equal before God.
Topkapi Palace—political headquarters of the Ottoman Empire, located in Istanbul.
Zheng He—Ming naval leader who established tributary relations with Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean ports,
the Persian Gulf, and the east coast of Africa.
What was old and what was new in the sixteenth-century world?
How did the Portuguese attitude toward trade enable the Portuguese to exploit and dominate their
What did European conquerors adopt and change from the New World traditions they
What military and maritime technologies advanced Portuguese exploration?
What caused the political rivalries and religious rifts that divided Europe in the fifteenth and
Why did trade expand, and wealth increase in sixteenth-century Asia?
1. European voyagers and colonizers “discover” the Americas (the so-called New World) and
connect Afro-Eurasia with the Americas for the first time since the Ice Age.
2. Not only do peoples move back and fort between Afro-Eurasia and the Americas; so do plants,
animals, cultural products, and diseases—the Columbian exchange.
3. Europeans create empires at great distance from their homelands, fail to enslave Native
Americans, and bring in African captives as slave labourers, creating the Atl