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I nostri Saracini: Writing the History of the Arabs of Sicily


During the nineteenth century, Sicilian Orientalists wrote the story of Sicily’s domination by the Arabs and the Arabic-language culture of the Normans – centuries of eventful history that had been lost to the West because European historians could not read Arabic documents. In their histories, Sicilians identified an alternate origin for European modernity: the vibrant Arab culture of the medieval Mediterranean transmitted to the continent through borderland states like the Kingdom of Sicily. This essay examines the lives and scholarship of three nineteenth-century Sicilian Orientalists – Pietro Lanza, Vincenzo Mortillaro, and Michele Amari – who worked to articulate a Mediterranean origin for European modernity.

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