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A History of World Societies, Sixth Edition
Web Exercises
Chapter 9: The Islamic World, ca 600-1400

Islamic civilization was the third major tradition to evolve after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fourth and fifth centuries. From the seventh through fifteenth centuries, it was arguably the most dynamic and expansive culture in the world. Indeed, some scholars have described it as the world's first truly global civilization. Islamic society borrowed much from the Greek, Roman, Persian, and Indian traditions and spread them as it extended its reach. In these Internet activities, you will explore the life of Abu 'Abdallah Ibn Battuta, a Muslim traveler in the fourteenth century, to better understand the impact of Islamic civilization on the world.

Helpful Hints:
  • You may want to begin by printing this page. As you explore different sites, use the printout to refer back to the instructions and questions detailed in each activity.
  • On many web sites you can increase the size of the images by clicking on them. Whenever possible, use the larger images to examine fine details in photographs.
Activity One:
  • Read "Individuals in Society: Abu 'Abdallah Ibn Battuta (1304–1368) on page 265 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition). Then go to IBN BUTTUTA. Write a paragraph explaining who Ibn Battuta was, where he lived, and what he did for a living. Pay close attention to his role as a scholar (ulema) and judge (qadi).
Activity Two:
  • Go to Map 1 and Map 2. The first map shows the areas where Ibn Battuta traveled. The second shows where Islam was the major, or a major, religion in the year 1300. What do these two maps have in common? (Hint: Did Ibn Battuta travel to areas where Islam was not a major religion, or did he stay within the Islamic world?)
  • Using these maps and others found in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition), locate the following cities: Cairo, Jerusalem, Mecca, Mombasa, Delhi, Timbuktu, Granada, Tangiers, Bukhara, Samarkand, Constantinople. Locate the following regions: West Africa, East African coast, Indian subcontinent, the Arabian peninsula, Egypt, China, Central Asian plains. Finally, locate the following bodies of water: Indian Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea, Persian Gulf, Black Sea, South China Sea. Now print out Map 1 and label these locations.
Activity Three:

Learn more about Ibn Battuta's travels through the virtual tour below.  Make sure to find the link at the bottom of each page and click through to the next page.  By the time you finish you will have followed Ibn Battuta through his extensive journeys and learned much about the cultures he encountered.
  • Begin the tour with this introduction.  Review the map at the bottom of the page, and then click through to the page concerning Ibn Battuta's trip to Morocco.
Activity Four:
  • After reviewing the links in Activity Three, list the several factors that led to the spread of Islam in the centuries preceding Ibn Battuta's life. Which do you think was most important?
Activity Five:
  • Review Map 9.2 on page 262 in McKay, A History of World Societies (Sixth Edition). How did trade routes facilitate Ibn Battuta's travels and the expansion of Islam?
  • Go to Map of the Trade Routes. Compare and contrast this map with the one in McKay. Note that twelve hundred years separate them. Do these maps help put Ibn Battuta's travels and the spread of Islam in a larger historical context? Did any other religions spread over these trade routes before Islam? Review Chapter 7, "East Asia Spread of Buddhism, CA 200 B.C.–A.D. 800." Write a paragraph explaining your answer to these questions.
Activity Six: Activity Seven:
  • How do the travels of Ibn Battuta help explain the Islamic concept of the umma? (See page 242 in McKay, A History of World Societies [Sixth Edition].) How did this concept and other traditions and institutions in the Islamic world facilitate his travels and adventures? Write a paragraph explaining your answer.