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Abstract

This paper engages with the organization of the leadership of the Syro-Egyptian sultanate in the long ninth/fifteenth century, focusing particularly on the case of the court position of ‘the Chief Head of the [sultan’s] Guards’ (raʾs nawbat al-nuwab). It explores narrative source reports to identify the sultanate’s sixty ‘Chief Heads’ and to reconsider what they did in this capacity. Through the analytical categories of the court, social infrastructures and military entrepreneurialism, this paper furthers understandings of how these military leaders were all constitutive participants in the era’s complex processes of resource accumulation, violence-wielding, courtly reconfiguration, and state formation.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Author:

Abstract

Between 1747 and 1834, Durrānī Afghan rulers built webs of alliance to political, economic, and religious elites in Peshawar. The village of Chamkanī serves as a useful case study of these networks. Chamkanī housed an influential Indian merchant family, Afghan landed nobility, and a powerful Sufi lineage. Reflecting the fundamental tension between the Durrānī ideal of universal sovereignty and the reality of diffuse power, these groups both cooperated and clashed with royal authority, and maintained ties between themselves. Ultimately, the most durable legacies of Durrānī rule were left by these local elites.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Abstract

The paper examines the akıncıs’ actions and hence the motivation for their raids as essential constituents within the process of Ottoman conquest of the Balkans in the late Middle Ages. Focusing on the raiders and their plundering activities, it asserts that the akıncıs played a crucial key role in the early Ottoman slave economy, as slave hunting was arguably the main economic driving force behind the Ottoman conquest. It hence argues that an analysis of the akıncıs allows for new insights into the nature of the early Ottoman Empire, but also advances the idea that their actions fall within a particular phase of the conquest period. To that end, the authors re-periodize the Ottoman conquest of the Balkans into the akıncı phase, which spanned eight to thirteen decades, depending on the region, and was characterized by continuous slave hunting and destruction of economic infrastructure, and the phase of administrative integration into the Ottoman Empire, which latter process was pursued by other actors, namely imperial elites from the center, and is usually characterized by at least partial repopulation of demographically weakened areas.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Abstract

This article examines the place occupied by garden culture in the mental landscape of Russia’s Muslims from the early nineteenth century to the late Socialist era. First taken from the Qur’an as a symbol of eternal salvation, the idea that gardens might embody both aesthetic and metaphysical values was further articulated by traveling missionaries with Sufi affiliations. This idea was afterwards absorbed by the generation of students graduated from Central Asian madrasas who, in the first half of the nineteenth century, brought the fashion for having gardens back to their home villages in European Russia. Gardens built or imagined by Muslims in European Russia had a history of their own, developing from the classical vision of heavenly gardens in Qur’anic exegesis into what became a central spatial category in Sufi tradition. In post-war Soviet Russia a place of piety was rethought as dacha—the entire process reflecting the evolution of Muslim subjectivity over the last few centuries.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Abstract

Through analysis of the Russian-language writings of the prominent Crimean Tatar Muslim educator Ismāʿīl Gasprinskii, this article engages in unpacking the term ‘Islamic Reformation’. Gasprinskii’s membership of various, not necessarily overlapping social groups, including Russian conservative circles and international Muslim liberal networks, gave rise to the multitude of complex, often mutually exclusive meanings that the term enjoyed in his work. Despite clear references that Gasprinskii made to European and global Islamic discourses on civilisation and progress, his texts remained highly sensitive to Russia’s own insecure stance vis-à-vis Europe. Responding to the nation-building rhetoric of Russia’s elites, Gasprinskii conformed to and simultaneously challenged dominant cultural codes concerning Russia’s ethnic and religious minorities in many subtle ways. His case thus invites a reconsideration of the modes of conversation that existed between the coloniser and the colonised at the turn of the twentieth century, whereby we see them not as instances of uncontested domination by and imposition of European models, but as a complex and multidirectional process in which Muslim figures, like Gasprinskii, could exercise a significant degree of agency.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Abstract

This study introduces and publishes an array of Ottoman archival documents on the shrines of Ahl al-Bayt imams in Iraq, the endowments dedicated to these shrines, and the Shiite-Iranian pilgrims visiting these sites as well as the Kaaba and the shrine of Muhammad in the Hejaz. Focusing on the later seventeenth and the early eighteenth centuries, it discusses the political-economic function of Islamic endowments, interconfessional contacts resulting from pilgrimage by Shiites in Sunni territory, and the potential use of Ottoman archives to enrich our knowledge on trans-Ottoman themes.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Author:

Abstract

This article examines various aspects of conditional sales (bayʿ-i sharṭ) and other types of loans in Qajar Iran (1796-1925). Islamic law prohibited usury, but Shiʿi jurists found a way to legalize money lending at interest. In this paper, I explore how these transactions occurred in practice and what features they had. To this end, I consider three groups of bayʿ-i sharṭ deeds from the National Archives of Iran, discussing how each case proceeded and how differences between cases reveal the ways in which this type of transaction functioned. While similar types of transactions were allowed in other regions and schools of law, the details of Shiʿi legal devices were distinctive.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Abstract

Even though all state documents in Marwar in the second half of the eighteenth century were issued in Rajasthani, Persian-language documents continued to have an active legal life and were debated, discussed and judged through Rajasthani-language petitions and orders. A close reading of one such dispute highlights tensions over the authority of community versus documents, how new forms of state record-keeping affected the legal use of documents, and how the Rajput king’s practice of customary law led both to the interpolation of shariʿa principles into that law when applied to Muslims and to the restriction of the qazi’s jurisdiction.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Abstract

This article explores the contours of debt and labor in the early twentieth-century Persian Gulf pearl dive. It examines the barwa, a declaration exchanged by nakhodas (dhow captains) about the amounts that divers owed and the terms by which they might be hired out. By looking both through and at the barwa, we find a window into the Indian Ocean maritime bazaar, and into the artifacts through which mobile and itinerant laborers were bound to the dhow and its captain. Maritime actors used these papers to navigate the boundary between person and property, and between free and unfree, all within a changing commercial and legal world.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

Abstract

Extraterritoriality and nationality were crucial to the legal landscape of the Late Persianate world and relations between Iran and British India. Extraterritoriality not only protected British subjects from Persian prosecution but also afforded the British Empire the means to rule Indians in lands beyond the Raj. Iran’s opposition to extraterritoriality led to laws that expanded Iranian nationality to include many Indians living in Iran and the Iranian diaspora living in India—who often navigated these rules as it best suited their interests. These developments reveal the significance of imperialism and state building to the emergence of modern international law and the fate of the Persianate world.

Open Access
In: Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient