Communities of Knowledge: Interreligious Networks of Scholars in Ibn Abi Usaybiʿa’s “History of the Physicians”

Principal Investigator:

Nathan Gibson

Funded by:

Federal Ministry of Education and Research



In the Communities of Knowledge project (, we examine the social encounters of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars in the Abbasid Near East (750–1258). Their rich intellectual exchanges, including Greco-Arabic translations, are well known, but their social environments are less clear. Who were the people who bridged these communities? Were they rulers, patrons, family members, scribes, or slaves? Which places were most significant for these contacts and what forms of communication did they take?

We have digitally recorded these interactions and used network analysis to identify the persons, places, and communication modes most frequently involved in scholarly exchange. We have also analysed Ibn Abi Usaybiʿa’s representation of these events and compared it to representations from other sources.

The project’s results will be published as a monograph and project data is periodically updated on the project website and in public archives. Some of the project’s preliminary findings can be found in a chapter on “Cross-Communal Scholarly Interactions” by Nathan P. Gibson and Ronny Vollandt in the Routledge Handbook on the Sciences in Islamicate Societies (edited by Sonja Brentjes, to appear in late 2022).

Team members