Power, society, and (dis)connectivity in medieval Sardinia


This is a four-year project to explain the history of Sardinia in its medieval Mediterranean context. We are an international team of historians and archaeologists with transdisciplinary skills who will test key hypotheses about Sardinia’s unique political development as well as its society and the ways that the island has been understood in the past. With our ten international collaborating partner institutions, we will establish a new display of medieval Sardinian artefacts.

The team will study four interwoven research strands. The first deals with the island’s ‘connectivity’, which is often used to characterise the medieval Mediterranean. However, the second largest island in the Mediterranean – Sardinia – is also understood as a model of isolation. Clearly, these ideas cannot both be correct. We will thus re-evaluate Sardinia vis-à-vis its surrounding regions through a new study of its geopolitical context.

Sardinian history has been overlooked – but not because it is unimportant. Indeed, its unique development as an unconquered liminal polity among the major powers of the Mediterranean offers important new perspectives on formative phases of Euro-Mediterranean history. For example, the migration of Byzantine monks, soldiers, officials and nobles from North Africa to Sardinia provides paradigm-shifting evidence for the Arab Conquests and the creation of Muslim-Christian frontiers, showing how the dynamics of the Muslim conquest of North Africa were very different to those elsewhere.

We will also examine the autonomous forms of insular governance that emerged between 700 and 1100 through early charters and church records. We will elicit the social and political relations between the rulers, the rural elites, small landholders, and the wider population to offer a new multidisciplinary explanation of networked and negotiated modalities of power and social interaction. Particular emphasis will be laid on the identification of prestige kin-groups and actors in the countryside mentioned in the island’s rich documentary record.

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Project Reference: AH/S006273/1

Our Aims

Four interlinked objectives:
  • We will offer a fundamental re-evaluation of old and new evidence for the earliest ‘Islamisation of Europe’ after the Arab Conquests and the formation of lasting Muslim-Christian frontiers in the western Mediterranean.

  • We will produce a new landmark critique that integrates Mediterranean and Sardinian historiography redefining their relationships in terms of their mutual in- and inter-dependence.

  • We will offer an integrated, new, multidisciplinary study of networked and negotiated modalities of power and social interaction between the rulers, the rural elites, small landholders and the wider population in Sardinia.

  • We will assemble a new display to explain medieval Sardinian and Mediterranean history through the most important and representative artefacts.

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