Periodic Reporting for period 2 - EMBEDDING CONQUEST (Embedding Conquest: Naturalising Muslim Rule in the Early Islamic Empire (600-1000))
Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2019-12-31
One of the aims of the project is to integrate the Islamic empire into empire studies and other comparative historical approaches. By showing the dynamics of power in the establishment and running of the Islamic empire, we aim to challenge analyses essentialising Islam that dominate the public and scholarly debate. We aim to change attitudes in the scholarly domain by inviting scholars working on other regions and periods to our conferences and workshops, while publications are planned in mainstream journals that emphasise the fertility of the Islamic empire as a comparative model. In our blog series we offer examples that are accessible to the general public. The (board or computer) game that we aim to produce is also intended to disseminate our insights about the deep social ties that support hierarchical systems especially in establishing long-lasting political structures in post-conquest societies to a larger audience.
Scholars of the medieval Muslim world have so far mainly relied on literary sources that were produced several centuries after the process of Muslim state formation and under very different historical circumstances. These sources generally offer a perspective exclusively from the rulers’ courts. This has created a false and limited impression of the power dynamics in the Islamic empire. Documents in the many different languages of the Islamic empire exist in large numbers but remain largely underused. By placing documents at the centre of our analysis, the project accesses a deeper level of understanding and offers richer insights. Our studies into the linguistic and rhetorical strategies of letters between governors and governed – in both directions, along vertical and horizontal hierarchical axes –serve as examples of the insights gained from this change of perspective. By comparing letters preserved in documents with those cited in literary sources, drawing upon the techniques of Digital Humanities, we also make important contributions to the historiographical debate about the reliability of historical texts.