This essay first attempts to explain why the Iranian city of Kashan is where it is and then how it came to grow.
Extensive use of irrigation allowed an adequate and perhaps abundant agriculture in the surrounding region. The arrival of substantial numbers of Arab immigrants in Kashan in the early Islamic period played an important role in the city’s development and its continuation as a center of Shiʿism. A strong educational tradition produced many talented Kashani officials, who served in the Saljuq and later administrations and sent some of their wealth back to Kashan.
It was also in the Saljuq period that Kashan gained a reputation for its production of luxury ceramics. Artisanal traditions were passed from generation to generation and contributed to exports of brass, and especially of textiles, which continued for centuries. Wealthy Kashanis (probably including a fair number of sayyids) invested heavily in charitable endowments, which served the poor and furthered learning in general. In the Timurid period, investments in mathematical education produced several outstanding mathematicians and astronomers. Tax yields from the medieval period may indicate the increasing prosperity of Kashan.
HillenbrandRobert H. “The Relationship between Book Painting and Luxury Ceramics of 13th Century Iran” in HillenbrandRobert H. (ed.) The Art of the Saljuqs in Iran and Anatolia (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda1994): pp. 134-41.
JomehpourMahmoud “Qanat Irrigation Systems as Important and Ingenious Agricultural Heritage: Case Study of the qanats of Kashan, Iran” International Journal of Environmental StudiesLXVI/3 (June2009): pp. 297-315.
Niẓām al-MulkSiyaral-mulūk ed. HubertDarke (Tehran: Bungāh-i tarjamah va-našr-i kitāb1962) trans. HubertDarkeSiyāsat-nāma (The Book of Government or Rules for Kings) (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1960).
PancaroğluOyaPerpetual Glory: Medieval Islamic Ceramics from the Harvey B. Plotnick Collection with transcriptions and translations of inscriptions by ManijehBayani (New Haven: Yale University Press2007).