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  • Print publication year: 2021
  • Online publication date: January 2021

7 - The Territories and Boundaries of Empires


The three so-called early modern Islamic empires formed in regions where the pre-Islamic Byzantine, Achaemenid and Sasanian and Mauryan and Delhi Sultanate states had originally been centered: the Bosphorous and Anatolia, the Iranian Plateau and the South Asian subcontinent. The boundaries of the Muslim-ruled Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal states were determined to a considerable degree by fixed geographic and economic realities, despite the explicit or implied universalistic pretensions of their dynasties. Individual rulers may have harbored grand ambitions, but none of these empires ever sought to destroy their imperial neighbors, but instead attempted only to occupy the marchlands between them. Thus the boundaries between the Ottomans and Safavids and the Safavids and Mughals remained largely static, even while the Ottomans occupied the Balkans, the Fertile Crescent, Egypt and North Africa, the Safavids subdued Georgia and overran western Afghanistan and the Mughals retained Kabul and eastern Afghanistan, while they bludgeoned the Deccan Sultanates into submission.

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