Sixth-Year Doctoral Student (in 2016-17), Department of History
Project: William of Tripoli and his Eastern Context: Reconsidering the Cultural Milieu of the Latin East
For nearly two centuries after the First Crusade, Latin Christians controlled significant parts of the eastern Mediterranean, home to a diverse array of Christians, Muslims, and Jews. While seemingly a rich context for inter-religious cultural exchange, the dominant historical narrative has called this society a form of proto-Apartheid, with Frankish rulers successfully erecting impermeable boundaries between themselves and their largely Arabic-speaking subjects.This dissertation challenges this narrative through an investigation of the life and work of William of Tripoli, a thirteenth-century Dominican born in modern Lebanon, who spent his career evangelizing Muslims from a priory in Akko (modern Acre). William wrote two treatises on Islam that have been called "peculiar", because of their positive portrayal of both the Qur'an and the Prophet Muhammad. This project argues that the "peculiar" elements in William's work were borrowed from Arabic-Christian and Muslim sources, and that they informed his rhetorical approach to Islam. William of Tripoli is representative of an important religious exchange between Latin and Arabic culture that until now has been misunderstood.