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The Finances of the Caliphate: Abbasid Fiscal Practice in Islamic Late Antiquity

Project description

Taxes and empire

The Abbasids, the second longest ruling dynasty in Islamic history, ruled the Islamic world between 750 and 1258. The first centuries of their rise to power are of key importance for the history of Islam: the earliest surviving literary texts written by Muslims, ranging from poetry to fiscal treatises, were composed during this period. Focussing on Greek, Coptic and Arabic papyrus documents from that time, the EU-funded CALIPHALFINANCES project aims to shed light on the Abbasid administrative and fiscal history. Specifically, the project will study the organisation of tax collection, tax rates and categories of taxpayers. To trace how provincial revenues reached the caliph, researchers will incorporate the information found in provincial chronicles with that in the papyri.

Objective

This project offers an ambitious new account of a seminal period in Islamic history. It will for the first time provide a view from below on Abbasid fiscal history through a study of papyrus documents in Greek, Coptic and Arabic written in Egypt, a field in which the PI is a leading scholar. The Abbasids were the second longest ruling dynasty in Islamic history (750-1258). The first centuries of their rise to power are of key importance for the history of Islam, as the earliest surviving literary texts written by Muslims (religious, legal and fiscal treatises, grammars and poetry) were composed at this time and in their capital, Baghdad. They have been the preferred sources for scholars working on this period. As a result, our current view of Abbasid state structures is a view from the top. State policies, however, were not decided by the caliphal centre and Baghdadi administrators alone. CALIPHAL FINANCES will refocus scholarship on the totality of Abbasid administration. It will be the first large-scale research project on Abbasid administrative and fiscal history to make use primarily of documentary sources. Egyptian papyri are concerned with everyday arrangements for fiscal collection in secondary urban centres and villages of the Nile valley. Capitalising on this material, the project will study the organisation of tax collection, tax rates and categories of taxpayers. The project team will trace how provincial revenues reached the caliph, incorporating information found in provincial chronicles with that in the papyri. Connections between administrators and local elites, religious and linguistic communities, their convergence on fiscal questions, their loyalty or resistance to the caliphate will all be assessed. In a field largely dominated by religious history, CALIPHAL FINANCES will renew our understanding of the dynamics of change in pre-modern state structures, with a focus on the complexity of local agency.

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Coordinator

THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Net EU contribution
€ 1 497 647,00
Address
Old college, south bridge
EH8 9YL Edinburgh
United Kingdom

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Region
Scotland Eastern Scotland Edinburgh
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Links
Other funding
€ 0,00

Beneficiaries (1)