This course is a survey of the emergence and development of the caliphates as imperial systems in the context of late antique and later political, social, religious and economic conditions, and in the regions stretching from Iran to Spain, albeit with special emphasis on the eastern Mediterranean region. It will start with prefatory considerations, to ask a number of questions regarding continuity and discontinuity. Taking that lead and pursuing issues of periodisation, the course will take up the late antique Roman and Sasanian context, the Arab conquests, the institutions, social and economic conditions, networks and ideologies of imperial rule from Damascus and Baghdad. It will address imperial religion and imperial aesthetic and other cultural styles, and their institutions and social settings. The course will treat the relationship between forms of dissidence, regional fragmentation, parallel and rival Caliphates, and the once imperial centre, and the emergence of Seljuq rule as a prelude to the rise of the Ottomans.