Lecture recordings online

Recordings of all of the lectures and seminars held at the KRC will again be made available this term via the Islamic World WebLearn site. Lecture recordings are generally posted online within 24 hours of the lecture or seminar taking place, and can be accessed via your University login at the following URL: https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/portal/hierarchy/humdiv/orient/iw/iaa

Project News

Dirhams for Slaves Project website launched

The KRC-based 'Dirhams for Slaves Project' has launched a dedicated website, which can be accessed at the following address: http://krc.orient.ox.ac.uk/dirhamsforslaves

This project aims to explore the implications of a neglected trade system that connected Northern Europe and the Islamic world in the 9th and 10th centuries AD. The hundreds of thousands of Islamic dirhams found in hoards strewn across Northern Europe, from England through Scandinavia to Russia, are probably a residue of a large-scale trade system. But how exactly did it operate? What commodities were traded? This project will explore the hypothesis of a massive trade in Slavic slaves, which has so far received little scholarly attention. The study of various aspects of this trade system will lead us to ask questions of fundamental importance for the study of the Middle Ages. To what extent did the unprecedented accumulation of wealth derived from the long-distance trade trigger epochal social, economic, and political change, which in turn resulted in the emergence of states in non-Carolingian Europe in the 10th century? Was slavery a central feature of some early medieval societies, the reality of which has been overshadowed by the prevalent narrative of the emergence of feudalism? Answers to these questions are of paramount importance for any study of the medieval world, and are likely to pave the way for a new vision of the emergence of Medieval Europe and of the early contacts between Europe and the Islamic World.

Publication News

The Art and Architecture of Twelver Shi'ism: Iraq, Iran and the Indian Sub-Continent.

twelverJames W. Allan

Biennial Ehsan Yarshater Lecture Series, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London (January 11–16, 2007), Azimuth Editions, London, 2012.

This book arose from the exhibition Pilgrimage: The Sacred Journey, held at the Ashmolean Museum in 2006, curated by Dr Ruth Barnes. Those of us involved in it discovered that, amongst the many tens of books on the art and architecture of the Islamic world, there are none in which to look up the art and architecture associated with Twelver Shi'ism. This is the dominant faith in southern Iraq and Iran, and has also had a major historical role in India, in particular in the Deccan and in Lucknow. This book attempts to correct the situation, and is the first in its field.

It looks first at the history of the great Shi'i shrines of Iraq and Iran, a subject almost completely untouched in the standard works on Islamic architecture; on the role of Shi'i and, unexpectedly, Sunni (orthodox Islamic) patronage in their development; at the collecting of relics, and the use of inscriptions and symbols to identify religious buildings; and at the way in which different Shi'i religious buildings (e.g. tekiyehs, ashur khanehs and kerbalas) appeared in Iran and in India.

It then turns to the impact of Shi'ism on the craft industries, highlighting in particular the role of shrines in promoting art, the likely importance of Shi'ism in the development of Iran's steelworking industry, the use of inscriptions to identify objects as Shi'i, and the rise of figural art to communicate Shi'i faith – in the arts of the book, in paintings of the Kerbala drama, and, since the Islamic Revolution, on Iranian banknotes and stamps.

Finally, it turns to the impact of the art of Shi'ism on the annual Muharram processions, with their magnificent steel and brass standards ('alams), and highlights the syncretism characteristic of Shi'i art and architecture in the subcontinent.

Publication News

Craftsmen and coins: signed dies in the Iranian world (third to the fifth centuries AH)

craftsmenLuke Treadwell

The engravers' signatures discussed in this book were inscribed over a thousand years ago on the metal surfaces of coin dies which measured no more than three and half centimetres in diameter. Although not a single signed die has survived to the present day, a small number of the many thousands of coins made from them remain in coin collections all over the world. What do these tiny marks have to tell us about the early medieval Islamic world?

In fact they tell us a great deal about the working lives of two metalworking craftsmen, Mujib and ?asan, who made dies for mints in Afghanistan and Iran (293/905 to the 360s/970s). The signatures allow us to identify a number of dirham dies that can be attributed to each engraver. By comparing the style of these signed dies with unsigned dies of the same period we can build up a corpus of objects that can be attributed to each craftsman. The die corpus provides a pool of evidence upon which to base a detailed study of the engraver's working practices. It allows us to see how he manufactured these objects, what kind of tools he used, the styles of script he chose and even the mistakes he occasionally made.

Our engravers' working environment was very different to that of the caliphal period which preceded it. When the unitary caliphal state fragmented into numerous successor state polities, the highly regulated centralised caliphal die workshop disappeared. Since there were no trained dirham die engravers in the successor states, the new rulers were forced to employ craftsmen who had learned their profession as metalworkers or gemcutters in the bazaar, whence they brought their signing practice into the mint. The signing phenomenon, though short-lived, illustrates the momentous changes caused by the collapse of the caliphal monetary system.

For further details see here

Publication News

Architecture and Hagiography in the Ottoman Empire: The Politics of Bektashi Shrines in the Classical Age

hagiographyZeynep Yürekli

Based on a thorough examination of buildings, inscriptions, archival documents and hagiographies, this book uncovers the political significance of Bektashi shrines in the Ottoman imperial age. It thus provides a fresh and comprehensive account of the formative process of the Bektashi order, which started out as a network of social groups that took issue with Ottoman imperial policies in the late fifteenth century, was endorsed imperially as part of Bayezid II's (r. 1481–1512) soft power policy, and kept under check by imperial authorities as the Ottoman approach to the Safavid conflict hardened during the rest of the sixteenth century.

Ashgate, Birmingham Byzantine and Ottoman Studies - November 2012. Includes 50 b&w illustrations, 3 maps and 4 plans. 230 pages. Hardback. ISBN: 978-1-4094-1106-2