Scholars at Work

The previous chapters argued that the extant Arabic-Islamic records on Latin- Christian Europe have to be regarded as the written manifestation of an overriding framework of transmission and reception. These records drew on the flow of information from Latin-Christian Europe to the Arabic-Islamic world and reproduce a number of perceptions and images that arose from multiple situations of encounter and exchange in an ever changing ‘information landscape’. However, these records do not document the entire range of perceptions, images, or available information that was of relevance in the area and period under investigation. As opposed to a large range of ‘border runners’, ‘cultural brokers’, or ‘hybrid personalities’, their authors were not necessarily engaged in direct contact with the Latin-Christian sphere and occupied a specific place at the end of shorter or longer chains of transmission. As intellectuals engaged in scholarly and literary pursuits they aimed at producing an organized vision of the historical and contemporary world and, consequently, depicted the non-Muslim world including Latin-Christian Europe from a comparatively detached scholarly perspective.

The present chapter aims at discussing the various factors that formed this scholarly perspective and affected how Latin-Christian Europe was recorded over the centuries. In an analysis of this scholarly sphere’s absorptive capacities, it explains the production of these records against the backdrop of the regional emergence, existence, and demise of intellectual infrastructures as well as the resulting geographies of transmission and reception. The chapter then focuses on the various difficulties encountered by individual scholars wishing to acquire, understand, and present information on Latin-Christian Europe.

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