Tag Archives: Historiography

Arabs and Iranians in the Islamic Conquest Narrative

Savran, Scott. 2018. Arabs and Iranians in the Islamic conquest narrative: memory and identity construction in Islamic historiography, 750-1050. (Culture and Civilization in the Middle East 57). London; New York: Routledge.

Arabs and Iranians in the Islamic Conquest Narrative analyzes how early Muslim historians merged the pre-Islamic histories of the Arab and Iranian peoples into a didactic narrative culminating with the Arab conquest of Iran.

This book provides an in-depth examination of Islamic historical accounts of the encounters between representatives of these two peoples that took place in the centuries prior to the coming of Islam. By doing this, it uncovers anachronistic projections of dynamic identity and political discourses within the contemporaneous Islamic world.  It shows how the formulaic placement of such embellishment within the context of the narrative served to justify the Arabs’ rise to power, whilst also explaining the fall of the Iranian Sasanian empire. The objective of this book is not simply to mine Islamic historical chronicles for the factual data they contain about the pre-Islamic period, but rather to understand how the authors of these works thought about this era.

By investigating the intersection between early Islamic memory, identity construction, and power discourses, this book will benefit researchers and students of Islamic history and literature and Middle Eastern Studies.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. Shifting Patterns of Identity and Early Islamic Historiography in Context
  • 3. The Opening of the Drama: Shāpūr and the Sheikh
  • 4. Bahrām V Gūr, the Lakhmids, and the Hephthalite Disaster
  • 5. The Twilight of Sasanian Power: Khusraw I Anūshirvān and the Saga of Ḥimyar
  • 6. The Buildup to the Confrontation: Khusraw II Parvīz and the Rise of the Arabs
  • 7. The Climax: The Islamic Victory over the Sasanians
  • 8. Conclusion

Scott Savran obtained his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 2011. His research focuses on identity-based discourses in early Islamic historiography.

Authority and Identity in Medieval Islamic Historiography

Hanaoka, Mimi. 2016. Authority and identity in medieval Islamic historiography: Persian histories from the peripheries. Cambridge University Press.

Intriguing dreams, improbable myths, fanciful genealogies, and suspect etymologies. These were all key elements of the historical texts composed by scholars and bureaucrats on the peripheries of Islamic empires between the tenth and fifteenth centuries. But how are historians to interpret such narratives? And what can these more literary histories tell us about the people who wrote them and the times in which they lived? In this book, Mimi Hanaoka offers an innovative, interdisciplinary method of approaching these sorts of local histories from the Persianate world. By paying attention to the purpose and intention behind a text’s creation, her book highlights the preoccupation with authority to rule and legitimacy within disparate regional, provincial, ethnic, sectarian, ideological and professional communities. By reading these texts in such a way, Hanaoka transforms the literary patterns of these fantastic histories into rich sources of information about identity, rhetoric, authority, legitimacy, and centre-periphery relations.

About the author: Mimi Hanaoka is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Richmond, where she is a scholar of history and religion. Her publications include scholarly journal articles on Persian and Islamic history and historiography. Her work as a social and cultural historian focuses on Iran and the Persianate world from the tenth to fifteenth centuries, concentrating on issues of authority and identity. In the field of global history, she concentrates on interactions between the Middle East and East Asia, focusing on the history of Iran-Japan relations.

An historiographical Study of Sasanian Iran

Jackson Bonner, Michael Richard. 2016. Al-Dinawari’s Kitab al-Akhbar al-Tiwal. An historiographical Study of Sasanian Iran (Res Orientales 23). Peeters Publishers.

This book is a study of the pre-Islamic passages of Abu Hanifa Ahmad ibn Dawud ibn Wanand Dinawari’s Kitab al-Akhbar al-Tiwal. It is intended for scholars of Late Antiquity. Special emphasis is placed on Dinawari’s exposition of the rule of the Sasanian dynasty and questions relating to the mysterious Khudaynama tradition which are intimately connected with it. Beginning with a discussion of Dinawari and his work, the book moves into a discussion of indigenous Iranian historiography. Speculation on the sources of Kitab al-Akhbar al-Tiwal follows, and the historiographical investigation of the most substantial portion of Kitab al-Akhbar al-Tiwal‘s notices on the Sasanian dynasty comes next. The findings of the book are set out in a narrative of Sasanian history at the end.
This book was written with one main question in mind: what does Dinawari’s Kitab al-Akhbar al-Tiwal have to say about pre-Islamic Iranian history? A host of other questions arose immediately: who was Dinawari; when did he live; what did he do; how was his work perceived by others; where did Dinawari get his information and how did he present it; is Dinawari’s information reliable?

About the Author: Michael Bonner was an undergraduate classicist who took an MPhil and DPhil in Sasanian history at the University of Oxford. He is a former policy adviser within the Canadian government, and now works as a communications consultant in Toronto.‎ He also teaches Latin and English part-time at the Ontario Academy of Technology. His personal website is www.mrjb.ca.

Syriac Historiography

Image from http://www.syri.ac/chronicles

Wood, Philip. Forthcoming. Syriac historiography VI: Historiography in the Syriac-speaking world, 300–1000. In D. King (ed.), Routledge Companion to the Syriac World. Routledge.

Survey of historical writing by and about Syriac-speaking peoples. It aims to lay equal stress on West Syrian and East Syrian contributions. And it emphasises the fact that both groups wrote as subjects of larger imperial systems (Roman, Persian, Arab), of which they were just a part.

This is a draft article posted with the author's permission.

The Historiography of Persian Architecture

Gharipour, Mohammad (ed.). 2015. The Historiography of Persian Architecture. (Iranian Studies 29). New York, NY: Routledge.

Historiography is the study of the methodology of writing history, the development of the discipline of history, and the changing interpretations of historical events in the works of individual historians. Exploring the historiography of Persian art and architecture requires a closer look at a diverse range of sources, including chronicles, historical accounts, travelogues, and material evidence coming from archaeological excavations.

Continue reading The Historiography of Persian Architecture

Sasanian royalist ideology

Sasanian royalist ideology and Zoroastrian millennialism

Lecture by François de Blois, University College London, at the Ancient India and Iran Trust, Cambridge, Friday 06March, 5.30pm.

François de Blois has published widely on Semitic and Iranian languages and on the history of religions in the Near East in pre-modern times. Notably, he contributed to the multi-volume work Persian Literature, which had been initiated by C.A. Storey and published by the Royal Asiatic Society. He served as Professor of Iranian Studies at Hamburg University from 2002 to 2003. Currently he is a research fellow at University College London where he is engaged in a major project on al-Biruni’s Chronology and other Arabic texts on non-Islamic calendars. He is also a teaching fellow for Aramaic and Middle Iranian languages at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He has been a frequent contributor to the Encyclopaedia of Islam.

All welcome. Refreshments from 5pm.

Ancient India & Iran Trust
23 Brooklands Avenue, Cambridge CB2 8BG

Darius in the shadow of Alexander

Jane Marie Todd’s translation of Briant’s 2003 Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre has just been published:

Briant, Pierre. 2015. Darius in the Shadow of Alexander. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

The last of Cyrus the Great’s dynastic inheritors and the legendary enemy of Alexander the Great, Darius III ruled over a Persian Empire that stretched from the Mediterranean to the Indus River. Yet, despite being the most powerful king of his time, Darius remains an obscure figure. […] While Darius seems doomed to be a footnote in the chronicle of Alexander’s conquests, in one respect it is Darius who has the last laugh. For after Darius’s defeat in 331 BCE, Alexander is described by historians as becoming ever more like his vanquished opponent: a Darius-like sybarite prone to unmanly excess.

Jan P. Stronk, University of Amsterdam, reviewed the original for the Bryn Mawr Classical Review (BMCR). Other reviews include:

  • Brosius, M.2006. Review of Pierre Briant: Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre. Gnomon 78(5). 426–430.
  • Stoneman, R. 2006. Darius III and Alexander: Darius dans l’ombre d’Alexandre by P. Briant. The Classical Review 56(2). 415–417.
  • معماران کاشی، مهرداد. ۱۳۸۴. نقد و بررسی کتاب: داریوش در سایه اسکندر. بخارا ۴۶. ۳۵۸–۳۶۴.

Early Islamic Balkh

Early Islamic Balkh: History, landscape and material culture
16th–17th January 2015, Wolfson College, Oxford
The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project (2011-2015) has been investigating the early Islamic history and archaeology of the city of Balkh, in Northern Afghanistan. Synonymous with ancient Bactra, the “Mother of Cities” continued to flourish after the coming of Islam, becoming one of the  most important urban centres of the eastern Islamic world, at the junction of India, China and Transoxiana. This conference presents the interdisciplinary research of the Project’s international collaborative team, and hosts a discussion of the state of research on Balkh in the 7th-12th centuries C.E.
For more information, see here.

Historiography in late antique Iran

Daryaee, Touraj. 2013. Historiography in late antique Iran. In Ali Ansari (ed.), Perceptions of Iran: History, myths and nationalism from medieval Persia to the Islamic Republic, 65–76. London: I.B. Tauris.

Read the article here.

Perceptions of Iran

Ansari, Ali (ed.). 2013. Perceptions of Iran: History, myths and nationalism from medieval Persia to the Islamic Republic. London: I.B. Tauris.
For the book, see here. Abstract:
From the Sasanian to the Safavid Empire, and from Qajar Iran to the current Islamic Republic, the history of Iran is one which has been colored by a rich tradition of myths and narratives and shaped by its wealth of philosophers, cultural theorists and political thinkers. Perceptions of Iran dissects the construction of Iranian identity, to reveal how nationalism has been continually re-formulated and how self-perceptions have been carried by Iran’s literary past, in particular the mystical love poetry of Rumi, Sa’adi and Hafez. It traces a long history of encounters with the Western world and tracks Iranian thought from Herodotus’ representation of Cyrus to the Constitutional Movement of the early twentieth century. This book ties together the diverse threads of Iranian intellectual activity that have underpinned social and political movements, spanning Kermani’s writing on ancient Persian history and liberal nationalism, through to the strident anti-Westernism of figures such as Sayed Jamal Al-Afghani and Ayatollah Khomeini.