Fighting for wealth, power and prestige: Elites in the Early Muslim Caliphate

Fighting for wealth, power and prestige: Elites in the Early Muslim Caliphate

By Alon Dar Patricians, upper stratum, ruling class, notables, and elite. These are only some of the terms that we come across when reading about the upper classes in the Medieval Caliphate. But does it make sense to use this…

Cooperating on Contesting Empires

Cooperating on Contesting Empires

On September 17 and 18, 2020 we as EMCO Team organized our first online conference: Contesting Empires: Sogdiana, Bactria and Gandhara between the Sasanian empire, the Tang dynasty and the Muslim Caliphate (ca. 600-1000 CE). In preparing for the event we…

Playing the CyberSultan: Videogames and the Islamic Empire

Playing the CyberSultan: Videogames and the Islamic Empire

I have been thinking a lot about representation of the early Islamic empires lately, and this has led me down a series of interesting rabbit holes that have distracted me from my research, but have enriched what I am doing….

The Governor's Orders, Part Two

The Governor’s Orders, Part Two

In ‘The Governor’s Orders, Part One’, we looked at the world of eighth century Egypt through the eyes of Shenoute, a village headman. The real protagonist of the story, and the object that triggered that exercise in historical imagination, was…

Illustration from the book Maqāmāt-i Harīrī written by Abū Muhammad al-Qāsim ibn Alī ibn Muhammad ibn Uthmān al-Harīrī (1054-1122).

The Diverse Processes of the Conquests of Sasanian Iran: The Example of the Region of Qom

When we use the term “Early Muslim Conquests,” we usually think of a one-way process: the Arabs taking a place with violence and causing disruption and without any cooperation from the local population. No doubt that was sometimes the case….

Coming out of the Cave: Monks in Society in seventh and eighth Century Egypt

Coming out of the Cave: Monks in Society in seventh and eighth Century Egypt

Starvation, solitude and saintliness. These are not the first words that come to mind when looking at the lives of Egyptian monks in the seventh and eighth century. At least, not when you look at their letters and documents on…

Burn after Reading: Epistolary Heresy in Tenth Century Baghdad

Burn after Reading: Epistolary Heresy in Tenth Century Baghdad

A police raid, a cache of letters, an inquisition, an execution. Sometimes you have to be careful what you write. In 322 AH/ 934 CE, the house of a man known as al-Shalmaghānī was raided by the caliph’s men. They…

The Governor's Orders, Part One

The Governor’s Orders, Part One

*** Read now also Part Two! *** Have you ever wondered what the Arab conquests of Egypt meant for the average Egyptian villager? The following story takes place a few years after 700, in the countryside of Middle Egypt. It’s…

Bactrian Documents: New Source for the Early Islamic History of Tukharistan

Bactrian Documents: New Source for the Early Islamic History of Tukharistan

Traditionally, the history of the early Muslim conquests of Tukharistan is based on Arabic historical narratives compiled during the early Abbasid period. However, they are written in Arabic by Muslim figures for Arabic speaking audiences within a particular framework to…

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