Libraries, Books, and Transmission of Knowledge in Ilkhanid Baghdad

In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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  • 1 The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Abstract

The destruction of the Baghdadi libraries has been a powerful image connected to the Mongol conquest of 1258, often claimed to have precipitated the decline of Muslim civilization. This study, however, challenges this claim by reconstructing the state of libraries in Ilkhanid Baghdad, revealing a thriving intellectual community. Based on a close reading in Arabic biographical dictionaries and analysis of samāʿ and book lists, it elucidates the functions of libraries in Ilkhanid Baghdad, identifies channels of knowledge transmission, and offers a glimpse of the libraries’ holdings. Finally, it analyzes the Mongols’ role in invigorating local scholarship and the impact their rule had on Baghdad’s intellectual life.

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