Long regarded as the preserve of French scholars and Francophone audiences due to its significance to France's colonial empire, North Africa is increasingly recognized for its own singular importance as a crossover region. Situated where Islamic, Mediterranean, African, and European histories intersect, the Maghrib has long acted as a cultural conduit, mediator and broker. From the medieval era, when the oasis of Sijilmasa in the Moroccan wilderness funnelled caravan loads of gold into international networks, through the 16th century when two superpowers, the Ottomans and the Spanish Hapsburgs, battled for mastery of the Mediterranean along the North African frontier, and well into the 20th century which witnessed one of Africa's cruellest wars unfold in "French Algeria", the Maghrib has retained its uniqueness as a place where worlds meet.
Contemporary events in the Islamic world dominate the headlines and emphasise the crises of the Middle East and North Africa, yet the Islamic World is far larger and more varied than we realise. Current affairs there too mask the underlying trends and values that have, over time, created a fascinating and complex world. This new series is intended to reveal that other Islamic reality by looking at its history and society over the ages, as well as at the contemporary scene. It will also reach far further afield, bringing in Central Asia and the Far East as part of a cultural space sharing common values and beliefs but manifesting a vast diversity of experience and social order.