How Medieval Islam Transformed Farming (and Food)




Now here’s a terrific resource, a really reliable site dedicated to medieval Arabic manuals on farming produced all over the medieval Islamic world (see map above) .  You probably already know but the medieval Islamic states transformed agriculture from Spain to parts of India, from the Sahel to Sicily.

The purpose of the Filāḥa Texts Project is to publicise and elucidate the written works collectively known as the Kutub al-Filāḥa or ‘Books of Husbandry’ compiled by Arab, especially Andalusi, agronomists mainly between the 10th and 14th centuries (see Authors & Works). These systematic and detailed manuals of agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry have been sadly neglected and remain largely unknown in the Anglophone world – apart from some of the Yemeni works they have never been translated into English.

via The Filāḥa Texts Project.

Edit.  Some more thoughts on this.  I think the title should really be “How Medieval Islam Transformed Food and How it Had to Transform Farming to get the Foodstuffs it Needed.”

Also, I had the pleasure of taking Expiración Garcia, mentioned on this site as one of the premier researchers in the area, to lunch last year when she was giving a series of seminars in the UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico).  She is a meticulous researcher.  But neither I nor any of the other members of the seminar could persuade her to speculate on the clear transfer of much of this agronomy to Mexico.  Too bad, if understandable given it was her first visit, the need to be circumspect about this kind of research in Spain, time pressure, etc.

Thanks to Karen Reeds on the ASFS list for the tip.  And from there back to H-HISTGEOG@H-NET.MSU.EDU

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4 thoughts on “How Medieval Islam Transformed Farming (and Food)

  1. Ken Albala

    I was just about to suggest this great site to you! And there it is. I guess we both saw it on the listserve. Great stuff. I’m really loking forward to seeing what’s translated on it. Like a whole world you’ld heard about but never visited.

  2. farid zadi

    historical references to “morocco” are not equal to references to today’s country of morocco. a lot of the problems with english writing about north african cuisine is confusing/conflating morocco with north afrcia and berbers.

    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Agreed that this is so.

      However I think this is an innocent use of the word to alert casual visitors to the geographic spread of these authors using well known contemporary geographic names. If you go to the list of authors on the website you will find the one listed for the “Morocco” location is Ibn al-Banna, Marraqkesh, Marinid.
      The author of the web site lists himself as being a researcher on Berber hydraulic techniques, among other things.


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