Next York-Noor Lecture looks at industry and labour in two early-Islamic cities

University of Victoria history in art Professor Marcus Milwright will deliver the next talk in the York-Noor Lecture Series on Sunday, Jan. 18, looking at urbanism in the early centuries of Islam.

His talk, “Two Early-Islamic Cities: Industry and Labour in Abbasid Raqqa and Samarra”, will take place from 3 to 5pm, at the Noor Cultural Centre, 123 Wynford Dr. (Don Valley Parkway & Eglinton Avenue East).

“One of the most interesting phenomena of the early Islamic period is the creation of new urban entities in the regions of the new Muslim empire,” says Milwright, who has held fellowships with The Warburg Institute, the British Academy and the Aga Khan Programs for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University and MIT. “Ranging from rough-and-ready garrison encampments to formally planned towns based on classical prototypes, Islamic urbanism from the seventh to the 10th century is notable for its typological diversity.”

Under the Abbasid dynasty, from 750 to 1258, the scale of these new cities increased greatly. Two of the most famous cities from this period are caliph Mansur’s round city of Baghdad and caliph Mu’tasim’s foundation at Samarra.

“This paper will highlight the ways in which modern archeological research has changed our appreciation of urbanism in the early centuries of Islam,” says Milwright. “Focusing on Raqqa in Syria and Samarra, the talk explores the practicalities of building a city and supplying the inhabitants with the manufactured goods they needed in their everyday lives.”

He will also look at how a designated industrial district was formed at Raqqa, and the evolution of this area from the late eighth century to the 11th century.

Milwright is the author of The Fortress of the Raven: Karak in the Middle Islamic Period (1100-1650) and is currently completing the book An Introduction to Islamic Archaeology,for Edinburgh University Press. His research interests include the art and archeology of the Islamic Middle East, labour and craft practices in the urban environment, cross-cultural contacts in the medieval Mediterranean and the history of medicine. He is involved in archeological research in Jordan, Syria and Iran.