Sugar in the Social Life of Medieval Islam


In Sugar in the Social Life of Medieval Islam Tsugitaka Sato explores the actual day-to-day life in medieval Muslim societies through different aspects of sugar. Drawing from a wealth of historical sources - chronicles, geographies, travel accounts, biographies, medical and pharmacological texts, and more - he describes sugarcane cultivation, sugar production, the sugar trade, and sugar’s use as a sweetener, a medicine, and a symbol of power. He gives us a new perspective on the history of the Middle East, as well as the history of sugar across the world.
This book is a posthumous work by a leading scholar of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies in Japan who made many contributions to this field.
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Biographical Note

Tsugitaka Sato (1942-2011), Litt.D. in History, the University of Tokyo, was Professor of History at the University of Tokyo and Waseda University, General Director of the NIHU Program for Islamic Area Studies and Director of the Research Department at the Toyo Bunko (The Oriental Library). He published extensively on social and economic history in medieval Islam including Islamic Urbanism in Human History: Political Power and Social Networks (Kegan Paul International Ltd., 1996) and State and Rural Society in Medieval Islam. Sultans, Muqta‘s and Fallahun (Brill, 1997)

Table of contents


Series Editor’s Acknowledgements
List of Abbreviations
Transliteration of Arabic and Persian
List of Figures and Map

Islamic Social History through Sugar
Sugar in Arabic Literature: Favorite Sweets
Historical Overview and Perspectives
Primary Sources in Arabic and Persian

Chapter 1. The Origin and Expansion of Sugar Production in the Islamic World
1. The Origin of Sugar Production and its Expansion to West Asia
The Origin of Sugarcane Cultivation
The Origin of Sugar Production
The Eastward Route: Expansion from India to China and Okinawa
The Westward Route: Expansion from India to Iran
2. The Expansion of Sugarcane Cultivation from Iran to Egypt
The Expansion from Iran to Iraq
Expansion to Syria (Bilād al-Shām)
Expansion to Lower Egypt
3. The Expansion of Sugar Production to Upper Egypt, Maghrib, and Andalusia
Expansion from Lower Egypt to Upper Egypt
Expansion to the Mediterranean Islands, Maghrib, and Andalusia

Chapter 2. From Red Sugar to White Sugar: Sugar Production Technology
1. Sugarcane Cultivation as Described by al-Nuwayrī
Al-Nuwayrī, an Encyclopaedist from Upper Egypt
Sugarcane Cultivation as Seen in Nihāyat al-Arab
Sugarcane Growers and Sugar Factory Workers
2. Sugar Production as Described by al-Nuwayrī
3. The Spread of Sugar Production Technology
from Egypt to China
The Travels of Marco Polo
Technology Transfer between East and West

Chapter 3. On Camels and Ships: Sugar as Commodity
1. The Prosperity of al-Karkh in Baghdad
The Establishment of Baghdad
Al-Karkh as Commerce and Industry Center
From Dibs to Sugar: A Change in the Production of Sweeteners
Sugar Distribution in the Eastern Islamic World
2. The Growth of Sugar Production in Egypt
From Baghdad to Cairo: A Historical Change
The Beginning of Prosperous Sugar Production in Fatimid Egypt
Sugar in the Age of Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn
The Managers of Sugar Production in al-Fusṭāṭ
Trade with Italian Merchants in Alexandria
3. The Tricks of the Sugar Merchants in Mamluk Cairo
A Guidebook (al-Madkhal) by Ibn al-Ḥājj
Unsanitary Conditions in Sugar Refineries
The Tricks of the Sugar Merchants
4. Reading the Books on Ḥisba
What is “Ḥisba”?
The Inspection of Sugar Trade

Chapter 4. The Ups and Downs of the Sugar Merchants
1. The Jewish Sugar Merchants as Described
in the Geniza Documents
The Discovery of the Cairo Geniza
The Jewish Sugar Merchants
2. The Kārimī Merchants Versed in Sugar
The Appearance of the Kārimī Merchants
The Organization and Activities of the Kārimī Merchants
“Merchants of Spices and Perfumes” or “Merchants of Spices and Sugar”
3. The Vicissitudes of the Kharrūbī Family in Mamluk Egypt
From Retailers to Kārimī Merchants
The Sugar Refinery Merchant
The Position of Chief Merchant (Ra’īs al-Tujjār)
Religious and Cultural Activities
The Beginning of the Downfall

Chapter 5. Sugar as Medicine
1. A Comprehensive Book of Simple Drugs by Ibn al-Bayṭār
Ibn al-Bayṭār, Pharmacologist
Sugar in the Comprehensive Book of Simple Drugs
2. Ibn al-Nafīs, the Personal Physician of Sultan Baybars I
The Second Ibn Sīnā
The Principles of Sugar as Described by Ibn al-Nafīs
Sugar as Medicine
3. ‘Aṭṭārs: Merchants who Profited from Sugar
Who were the ‘Aṭṭārs?
Al-Maqrīzī’s View of the Troubles in Egypt
The Prosperous ‘Aṭṭārs

Chapter 6. Sugar and Power: Festivals and Gifts from Royalty
1. The Storehouse for Raw Sugar (Dār al-Qand)
The Repeal of Miscellaneous Taxes by Sultan Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn
Al-Nashw Enacts Attachment on Raw Sugar
2. Sugar in the Month of Ramaḍān
Fasting and Sweets
The Royal Custom of Giving Sugar
3. Sweets for Banquets and Charities
Sugar Candies for Banquets (Simāṭ)
Sweets for Charities
4. Sugar Candies in Sultans’ Pilgrimages to Mecca
Amīr al-Ḥājj –The Official Guard of Pilgrims to Mecca–
The Maḥmil and Kiswa
The Mamluk Sultans’ Pilgrimages to Mecca

Chapter 7. Cooking Innovations in Medieval Islam
1. Cooking in the ‘Abbasid Caliph Courts
The ‘Abbasid Caliph Courts
Ibn Sayyār’s Kitāb al-Ṭabīkh
Al-Baghdādī’s Kitāb al-Ṭabīkh
2. Sugar in The Thousand and One Nights
The World of The Thousand and One Nights
Foods Palatable and Nutritious
3. Sugar in Arabic Pharmacology
Taqwīm al-Ṣiḥḥa by Ibn Buṭlān
Kitāb Daf‘ Maḍār al-Abdān by Ibn Riḍwān
Jāmi‘ al-Gharaḍ fī Ḥifẓ al-Ṣiḥḥa wa-Daf‘ al-Maraḍ by Ibn al-Quff
4. Hanging Candies for Children
Hanging Candies in the Month of Rajab
The Generalities of Sugar Consumption

The Revival of Sugar Production in Egypt
The Expansion of Sugar Production to the Caribbean Islands and South America
Sugar Meets Coffee and Tea
Coffee, Tea, and Sugar in Contemporary Muslim Societies



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