Thomas A. Carlson is an associate professor of history at Oklahoma State University. His research explores the religious diversity of medieval society and Christian-Muslim relations in the region from Constantinople to Samarqand to Cairo. This work challenges the confessionalization and linguistic balkanization of scholarly study of this region by revealing a more multi-faceted, interconnected, and dynamic past than has hitherto been suspected. He teaches an inclusive Middle Eastern history, incorporating both Islamic and Byzantine history from Heraclius and Muhammad to the present, with a particular emphasis on contingency and strategies for managing difference. In all his work, he seeks to help colleagues, students, and the broader public to understand the stakes and to access the resources of the powerful nexus of human experience in the medieval eastern Mediterranean and Middle East.
About the coin: The header images are the obverse and reverse of a coin (ID 6713) in the Princeton University Numismatic Collection, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Firestone Library. One side depicts the king of Cilician Armenia, Het’um I (r. 1226-1270), while the other names the Seljuk sultan Kayqubad II (r. 1249-1256). Striking coins was the prerogative of a sovereign in both the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic World, although at the time both Het’um and Kayqubad were vassals of the Mongol Empire of Chinggis Khan. The medieval Middle East is often studied as Islamic history, including Seljuk sultans but not Armenian kings, yet coins like these reveal the difficulty in defining precisely the boundaries of subfields in this region. Indeed, large non-Muslim populations (including rulers such as Het’um) continued in the Middle East into the late medieval period. Within the medieval eastern Mediterranean and Middle East, Islamic history and Eastern Christian history may profitably be studied as two sides of the same coin.