Introduction to Our Shared Past in the Mediterranean

The Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies (AVACGIS), with a grant in the “Our Shared Past” initiative from the British Council and the Social Science Research Council, has assembled a team of distinguished Mediterranean historians from the U.S., Europe, Turkey, and North Africa. The project is led by principal investigator Dr. Peter Mandaville, and features a select team of experienced world history curriculum developers to create resources for teaching about the role of the Mediterranean as a commercial and cultural ecosystem in past eras, as well as lesson materials on the present and prospects for the future. Given the unique geography of the transitions currently underway in the Middle East (several geographically contiguous North African states) and the likelihood that interactions between Europe, northern Africa, Turkey, and the Arab world will constitute a vitally important sub-region of globalization going forward, new cross-Mediterranean tendrils of economic and civil society connectivity will be necessary to help anchor these transitions.

Review Highlights from Patrick Manning, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of World History at the University of Pittsburgh

“It is a really rich collection of materials, showing the degree to which historical scholarship has advanced on many aspects of Mediterranean history, and giving teachers and students a feast of possibilities in linking the many types of information into a comprehensive picture of the unfolding of life in this region. The six Modules are an excellent set of materials, reflecting the initial assembly of documents and ideas within this framework…”

“The modules and the process of preparing them are exemplary in gathering a wide range of educational materials on the Mediterranean over a long period of time, in world-historical context. While there is no way for the materials to be definitive, they are definitely an educational advance in presenting a long-term view of a region that is at once well defined yet large and diverse. The range of themes addressed is impressive, and the materials are presented at scales ranging from the local to the trans-Mediterranean. The specific themes and materials should be fascinating to students and rewarding for the teachers who present them…”

“The overall strategy emphasizes cultural contact, pluralism, encounter, and cooperation in many themes of Mediterranean life. As such its interpretation contrasts – sometimes explicitly, with previous interpretations that emphasized discrete cultures, civilizational and geographic divides…”

Peter Mandaville, George Mason University

Susan Douglass, George Mason University


Mehmet Açıkalın, Istanbul University, Turkey

Edmund Burke III, University of California, Santa Cruz

Julia Clancy-Smith, University of Arizona

Sumaiya Hamdani, George Mason University

Driss Maghraoui, Al Akhawayn University, Morocco

Peter Mandaville, George Mason University

Huseyin Yilmaz, George Mason University


Susan Douglass, George Mason University

Jonathan Even-Zohar, EUROCLIO – European Association of History Educators

Craig Perrier, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fairfax, Virginia

Barbara Petzen, Middle East Outreach Council

Joan Brodsky Schur, City and Country School, New York City

Tom Verde, Independent Scholar