Renaissance and Reformation Christian-Muslim Exchange
Eric R Dursteler
  • LAST REVIEWED: 10 May 2010
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0041


The historical relationship between Islam and Christianity has deep historiographical roots; however, given recent events and tensions, it has attracted much renewed interest. For a long time, the primary approach to Christian-Muslim exchange was through the prism of conflict. In time this was supplemented by two new branches, a literature that emphasized the significance of Islamic influences on medieval and early modern European developments, and a wide literature, primarily from the Western perspective, of Christian/European attitudes to and images of Islam and Islamic polities, particularly the Ottoman Empire. On the former point, some concerns have been raised that perhaps the pendulum has swung too far and that Islamic influences on everything from Dante to Copernicus have been exaggerated. In the past two decades, the study of Christian-Muslim exchange has produced a fruitful, more complex understanding of the interrelationship between the two heirs to the Greco-Roman Mediterranean.

General Overviews

Included here are multiauthored works as well as works that broadly survey aspects of Christian/Muslim exchange and relations. Saïd 1979 is essential for any discussion of Christian/Muslim exchange. Bulliett 2004 proposes a provocative reworking of the concept of Judeo-Christian in favor Islamo-Christian civilization. Darling 2006 provides a general overview of the connection between Islam and Christianity, whereas Burnett and Contadini 2000 surveys influences in areas from science to the decorative arts. Venezia e i turchi is a beautifully illustrated overview of numerous aspects of the Veneto-Ottoman relationship, while Carboni 2007 specifically examines artistic and commercial links between the two states.

  • Bulliet, Richard W. The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004.

    A provocative essay that emphasizes the shared roots and common history of Islam and Christianity and their long history of exchange and cross-pollination. Through a wide-ranging historical survey, takes the hopeful view that their shared history can be the basis for peaceful relations between Christians and Muslims.

  • Burnett, Charles, and Anna Contadini, eds. Islam and the Italian Renaissance. London: Warburg Institute, 2000.

    Examines the reciprocal influences between Italian Renaissance and Islamic culture in a wide spectrum of areas, ranging from science and philosophy to the visual and decorative arts. The primary focus is on Venice and the Ottomans, but other Italian and Islamic regions are also examined.

  • Carboni, Stefano. Venice and the Islamic World, 828–1797. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2007.

    This colorfully illustrated exhibition catalog illustrates almost a millennium of Venetian contacts and exchange with the Islamic world. It outlines Islamic influences on Venetian arts and sciences, Venetian views of Muslims as depicted in art, and the influence of Islamic cultures on Venetian artisanal styles and techniques.

  • Darling, Linda T. “The Renaissance and the Middle East.” In A Companion to the Worlds of the Renaissance. Edited by Guido Ruggiero, 55–69. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006.

    Concise and useful overview of developments in the Islamic Middle East and their relationship to the European Renaissance.

  • Saïd, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979.

    An indispensable, highly provocative text that looms over all questions of Christian-Muslim relations. Based primarily on modern European literature, Saïd argues that Europeans represented the “Orient” as “other” and essentially inferior and that these views were central to Western imperialism.

  • Venezia e i turchi: Scontri confronti di due civiltà. Milan: Electa, 1985.

    A beautifully and extensively illustrated volume of essays on the political, commercial, military, and cultural history of the relationship between the Venetian and Ottoman Empires during the early modern period.

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