This introductory chapter argues that, far from being a “clash” of two rival civilizations, the Muslim world and Europe (or the West) were in reality two branches of a single “Islamo-Christian” civilization, with deep roots in a common religious, cultural, and intellectual heritage: the civilization of the ancient Mediterranean and the Near East, biblical revelation, and Greek and Hellenistic science and philosophy. This common heritage had grown stronger over fifteen centuries, thanks to the uninterrupted exchange of goods, persons, and ideas. The forms of contact were continuous and extremely varied: wars, conquests, reconquests, diplomacy, alliances, commerce, marriages, the slave trade, translations, technological exchanges, and imitation and emulation in art and culture. Far from marginal curiosities within the history of the European and Muslim peoples, these contacts have profoundly marked them both.
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