Order Out of Chaos

Patronage, Conflict and Mamluk Socio-Political Culture, 1341-1382


This book offers an analysis of the Syro-Egyptian Mamluk Sultanate's political culture, focusing on the period between 1341 and 1382 CE, when twelve descendants of the regime's most successful sultan al-Nāṣir Muḥammad b. Qalāwūn reigned and the military were more deeply involved in the political process than ever.
The book consists of three chapters, each of which discusses one major component of this period's political culture: political institutions, political relationships engendering households and networks, and the dynamics of the period's many socio-political conflicts.
This book marks an important breakthrough in Mamluk studies, offering both insights into the history of a long-neglected period and new models of analysis that call for wider application in the field of Mamluk socio-political history.

Hardback: List price

EUR €135.00USD $168.00

Biographical Note

Jo Van Steenbergen, Ph.D. (2003) in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, lectures in Arabic and Middle East History at the University of St Andrews and has published several articles on Mamluk institutional and political history.

Review Quotes

"The main strength of Van Steenbergen's book lies in the combination of a traditional approach to the sources, command of the literature, the application of prosopography and inslghts derived from political SOciology and, in this respect, is similar to Frenkel's use of prosopography and sociology. The book succeeds in living up to its title: it makes sense of the chaos, explains the order that emerged out of it and sheds light on MamlUk socio-political culture." – Yaacov Lev, in: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam 34 (2008), pp. 560-562 "A masterful and very valuable evaluation ... offers, for the first time in many years, a refreshing sociological perspective on Mamluk "'decline"... a "must-read"" – Bethany J. Walker, in: Bulletin d'Études Orientales LVIII (2008-2009), pp. 412-415

Table of contents

Acknowledgments Abbreviations-Transliteration Introduction Chapter One Legitimate Power a. The socio-political elite b. The Sultanate c. The Amirate d. Conclusion Chapter Two Effective Power a. Observations b. Patrons and Clients c. Kinship d. Households and Networks e. Networks of Effective Power between 1341 and 1382 Chapter Three Struggle for Power a. Observations b. Motives c. Strategies d. Order out of Chaos: 1341–1382 146 Conclusion Appendix 1: The Qalawunid Sultanate, 1279–1382 Appendix 2: Effective Power holders between 1341 and 1382 Appendix 3: Struggle for Power between 1341 and 1382 Bibliography Index


All those interested in medieval political history, the history of the pre-modern Middle East, and the Mamluk Sultanate.

Index Card