Universal historiography and millenarian kingship in late medieval Egypt and Syria. The third reign of al-Nāṣir Muḥammad and the discourse of history

Start - End 
2021 - 2024 (ongoing)
Department of Languages and Cultures
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This project investigates a corpus of historiographical texts, predominantely universal chronicles, composed by four historians closely related to the court of the Mamluk sultan al-Nāṣir Muḥammad: Baybars al-Manṣūrī, al-Nuwayrī, Ibn al-Dawādārī, and Abū l-Fidāʾ (death dates between 1325-40). It argues that these texts attest to a specific discourse of history that went well beyond formulations of legitimisation and sultanic hegemony. These historians composed large chronicles of history starting at creation or at the beginning of Islam to showcase how history logically and inevitably culminated in the present reign of al-Nāṣir Muḥammad. These forms of writing about the past spoke to contemporary political and social stakes through processes of compilation, selection, rewriting and composition. This amounts to a discourse on the meaning of history, which is expressed in various ways throughout the texts. The project studies this discourse as well as the interrelatedness of this corpus of texts and their situation in the larger history of the Arabic written tradition by employing both close and distant reading, and by studying the materialities of the manuscripts of these texts, many volumes of which survive in holograph form. It is argued that this holistic approach is necessary if we want to evaluate authorial agency and the workings of patronage in these and other historiographical texts of the period.