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Department of History

H246 Cities of Paradise and Empire

Course Code:
154800211
Unit value:
1
Taught in:
Full Year

Pathway: Islamic World; Third World; Near and Middle East. 

This course is concerned with aspects of Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal history from the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in the mid-1400s to the dawn of modernity in the Middle East, launched by Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1797. It examines the political, social, religious, and cultural history of these three Islamic empires from the perspective of their urban centres, tracing the rise of the great metropolises of the pre-modern Islamic world including Delhi, Herat, Samarkand, Isfahan, Baghdad, Damascus, Aleppo, Constantinople, Cairo, and Jerusalem. Particular attention is paid to the specific political and social subtext of the different cities, the meaning of urbanism and empire in this context, and the relationship between urban centres and the provincial periphery.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

This course covers the Ottoman, Savafid and Mughal empires, from the rise of Ottoman rule in the mid 1400’s to the dawn of modernity in the Middle East launched by Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1797.

The course is structured along a thematic format and will endeavour an interdisciplinary approach, combining perspectives and approaches of urban history with the survey of the wider historical themes of the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal polities. It will examine the political, social, religious and cultural history of the three great Islamic empires from an urban vantage point, following the rise of the great metropolises of the pre-modern Islamic world. The investigation of the evolution, expansion, and self-definition of cities and the study of the urban micro-cosmos functions as analogy and means of induction from the specific urban order to the wider political context of the empires’ history. Considering the role of cities as commercial and political centres, as nexus of the local-provincial and international, they serve as icons of political and economic centralisation, as seismograph for the rise and fall of the empires in a wider historical context and as still tangible epitome of the cultural, technological and artistic achievements of the Islamic empires.

The course will examine the role of cities, analyse the specific political and social subtext of different cities, inquire into the meaning of urbanism and empire, trace the relationship between urban centres and the provincial periphery, the interaction between city and its rural as well as tribal hinterlands. Investigating the historical tiers of cities like Delhi, Herat, Samarkand, Isfahan, Baghdad, Damascus, Aleppo, Istanbul, Cairo, Jerusalem and others, the course will discuss the central themes of Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal past, including the formation of these vast empires, their imperial aspirations, territorial expansion and conquest, roles and perspectives of Islam and kingship, commonalities and differences between them, their political, commercial and cultural interactions, as well as the effects of the encounter with Europe and the impact of the rise of the European powers.

The course is primarily intended to provide a introduction to the central topics and questions of Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal history. By approaching the history of these states through the examination of a range of leading urban centres, the course also introduces a approaches and methods of urban history.

Timetable

Exam (40%) , 2 x Coursework (50%) and Class Exercise (10%)

Suggested reading

  • Mansel, P. Constantinople: City of the World's Desire, 1453-1924 (London, 1996);
  • Eldem, E., D. Goffman and B. Masters. The Ottoman City between East and West (Cambridge, 1999);
  • Matthee, R. The Politics of Trade in Safavid Iran: Silk for Silver, 1600-1730 (New York, 1999);
  • Richards, J.F. The Mughal Empire (Cambridge, 1993)