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Berbers and Arabs in the Maghreb and Europe, medieval era

Migration A–Z


  1. Marco Di Branco and Kordula Wolf

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm064

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Wolf, M. D. B. a. K. 2013. Berbers and Arabs in the Maghreb and Europe, medieval era. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Migrations often accompanied Muslim invasions and expansions. They were a frequent phenomenon not only immediately after the conquest of new territories, but also as a consequence of many later military campaigns or other circumstances. Since details about long-term shifts in the centre of life of Arabs and Berbers in the surviving sources are rare, reliable information about the number, provenance, and duration of stay of new settlers in the Maghreb and parts of Europe during the Middle Ages is hard to find and difficult to estimate. This is aggravated by the fact that not every occupation of a region led to the establishment of a new leadership, which at least temporarily could create basic conditions for significant civilian settlement. In addition, the number of Muslim traders and slaves who stayed for longer periods in the occupied territories is completely uncertain. Therefore, this essay is focused on migrations of greater groups of Muslims, especially during the first phases of new dominations, and develops some major causes and consequences of these new settlements. In this context, the designations “Arab” and “Berber” are used for Muslims of different ethnic descent. But where this distinction cannot be made precisely, the general term “Muslim” is used, with the qualification that it always includes an unquantifiable number of non-Muslims, especially when talking about military forces. In all new territories ruled by Arabs and Berbers, non-converted Christian and Jewish populations fell under Muslim protection (ḏimma). With the ǧizya (a type of religious poll tax) they had to pay a higher tax burden than (converted) Muslims. The main medieval Arabic, Greek, and Latin sources concerning Muslims in the Maghreb and parts of Europe are collected in Amari 1933, Vasiliev (1935–68), Lévi-Provençal (1950–53), Talbi 1966, Laroui 1977, and Abun-Nasr 1987.


  • archaeology;
  • empire;
  • cultural diversity;
  • geopolitics;
  • rights;
  • social change