Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 August 2021
This chapter provides a brief overview of the political history of the Islamic world, from the seventh-century Arabian conquests to the formation, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, of the three great early modern Muslim empires: the Ottomans in Asia Minor, the Safavids in Iran and the Mughals in India. Its structure reflects the major political formations and transformations of this period: firstly, the Arabian ‘conquest polity’ which replaced the antique balance between Rome and Iran; then, after the demise of that empire in the mid-tenth century, the tumultuous era of ‘Berber’, Daylami and Turkic leaderships; finally, following the cataclysmic Mongol conquest of the eastern Islamic lands in 1258, the assimilation of these conquerors in the east and the political achievements of Turco-Mongol military strongmen and entrepreneurs in Syria, Egypt, Yemen and Anatolia. It looks at the elites and political structures that shaped and underlay this history and at their interaction with Islam. This had developed into a more fully articulated and stable ideological system, whose continued success lay in the new elites’ capacity to adopt and adapt it to their needs.