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A new view of medieval Persian history*

  • J. M. Rogers

Extract

A conspicuous feature of Ottoman history from the sixteenth century onwards, or even of fifteenth-century Mamluk Egypt, is that the mass of surviving administrative documents, well complemented by European sources, makes it possible to apply a range of economic and social concepts to illuminate their economy and society. For Persia the documents are far fewer and, even where, as in seventeenth-century Iṣfahān, the extant Safavid documents are exceptionally well complemented by European source material, doubts, often of a Marxian or Braudelian order, on the legitimacy of applying European concepts to Persian society are often entertained. In other periods the paucity of material is compounded by ethnic diversity – tribal versus settled populations; Turks versus Iranians or Iranians versus Turco-Mongols, all with deeply rooted authentic traditions – which is rarely documented, let alone explained, by the contemporary historians. It is almost as if the right kind of anthropologist could do more than the historian to exploit what material there is.

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* A review article of A. K. S. Lambton, Continuity and Change in Medieval Persia: Aspects of Administrative, Economic and Social History, llth–14th century. (Columbia Lectures on Iranian Studies, No. 2.) pp. xiii, 425, 5 maps. New York, Bibliotheca Persica (The Persian Heritage Foundation), 1988. Distrib. by State University of New York Press, US$49.50 (cloth), $19.50 (paperback). London, I. B. Tauris, 1988. £29.50.

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