The Persianite World: Mongols, Ilkhans, Mughals, Afshars and Qajars

This panel was compiled by the Conference Program Team from independently submitted paper proposals


Colin Mitchell


by Michael O'Neal / Tel Aviv University

This paper is an examination of rural resistance to Mongol rule in Khurāsān and Transoxania during the reigns of Chinggis Qan and Ögödei Qaʾan with a view to better elucidating the nature of military potential and its diffusion within Iranian society at the time of the first Mongol invasions. Scholars of Iran in the pre-Mongol era have recently explored the ways in which Iranian elements of society participated in warfare on a regular basis, despite the fact of Turkish military and political predominance and the normative prohibition of subjects’ engaging in warfare as enunciated in the literary sources. Such studies have examined, inter alia, the multifaceted ʿayyār phenomenon and the defense of cities in the Seljük era, notably Nīshāpūr and Iṣfahān. The Mongol conquests in particular have been examined as an event that “reveals” such segments of society as are otherwise obscured by our sources. Yet these studies have focused primarily on urban phenomena. In this paper, our attention will turn to the not insignificant level of rural resistance to Mongol rule. Briefly reconstructing the Mongol conquest of the eastern Khwārazmian realms, this paper looks at patterns of resistance in order to derive insights into how effectively military power and political authority were diffused. Resistance could arise in several forms, but only when significant fortifications, inaccessible terrain, or strategic mobility convinced local actors that their chances of retaining autonomy were good. These local actors included: largely autonomous muqṭaʿs and other rural “lords”; nomadic confederations such as the Khalaj; inhabitants of fortified villages or “fortress towns” in marginal areas; peasantry in the rustāqs led to revolt by local charismatic figures; and finally unorganized rural resistance, which is often described as mere brigandage. It is suggested that greater emphasis should be placed on the structure of the Khwārazmian and Ghūrids empires if we are to appreciate the full ramifications of the Mongol conquests and to gauge how widely military and political authority was wielded in eastern Iranian society in the pre-Mongol era. Furthermore, the much disproved axiom that “subjects do not fight” must be further modified to take into account not only urban but rural society as well. This paper therefore adds to recent debates about the nature and diffusion of political and military authority in the medieval Persianate world.

by Ryoko Watabe / The University of Tokyo

The Mongol invasion and the establishment of Ilkhanid rule in the 13th century introduced new fiscal policies, which greatly influenced Iranian societies. Two of these policies in particular, which had their origins in the Mongols’ military requisition system from the period of their conquest, caused economic collapse and various social and economic difficulties. They were the new administrative divisions named tümen (ten thousand) and the poll tax system (qupchūr), established after an empire-wide census in the reign of the Great Qa’an Möngke (reign 1251-1259). Many scholars agree that various administrative reforms by the seventh Ilkhan Ghazan Khān(1295–1304), including the enforcement of the iqtā’ system, had some effect on improving financial conditions. In Persian accounting manuals from the 13th and 14th centuries, written for scribes who wished to learn bookkeeping, we can observe that during this period, some kind of accounting books were adapted or developed to manage the expenditure. It appears that in the process of the Ilkhanids' fiscal reforms, Iranian bureaucrats tried to improve the bookkeeping system in the fiscal bureau (dīwān).
This paper will investigate how Ilkhanid bureaucrats tried to improve the bookkeeping system to control the revenue and the expenditure. It will analyze accounting samples in Persian accounting manuals written in the 13th and 14th centuries (Al-Murshid fī al-Ḥisāb, Sa‘ādat-nāma, Jāmi‘ al-Ḥisāb and Risāla-yi Falakīya), and will examine the influence of the Ilkhanid system on bookkeeping systems in later periods through the study of two accounting manuals from the Timurid and Safavid periods (Shams al-Siyāq and Ghiyāth al-Dīn Kirmānī’s Risāla). Based on this analysis, this paper will demonstrate that the social, economic and cultural changes in Iran under Mongol rule had significant influence on the development of bookkeeping systems and bureaucrats’ knowledge in Persianate societies.

by Stephan Popp / Institute of Iranian Studies, Austrian Academy of Sciences

Giving gifts to the emperor and receiving gifts from him was an important part of court ceremonial at the Mughal court of Jahangir. Most of these gifts were obligatory, as nobody could visit the emperor empty-handed. The gifts described by Emperor Jahangir in his diary and in the still unedited account of Muhammad Amin Qazvini on the princely days of Shah Jahan, Jahangir’s son, are highly standardized. Gifts to the emperor are classified into four groups according to function and were intended to give a good show of the giver’s status. Gifts by the emperor fulfil specified functions likewise, for example that of a bonus or a military order today.
We know that the system of gifts was not the “bribery” the British mistook it for, but what was it? This lecture will help to explain the function of these gifts as the sources depict them, specifying their function at court and in the narratives of Jahangir and Qazvini. From an observation of the items the nobles give and receive, the function of the gifts shall be related to the nobles’ function at court, also with regard to the reason that the sources mention the gifts for.
Court ceremonial at the Mughal court is still not understood well. Especially the sources from Shah Jahan’s time still are largely unedited and untranslated but provide insights into Shah Jahan’s ideas of governance and the allegedly “chaotic” times of his father. The question how the Mughal court was run after Akbar is far from being answered, and this lecture will give new insights into the functioning of the Mughal court by examining a major way of representing power.

by Andreas Wilde / University of Bamberg

Nādir Shāh (r. 1736-1747) is often regarded the last great conqueror who established a huge empire extending from Iranian territory up to the borders of India and Central Asia. In the first part of the eighteenth century, his military exploits led him and his army as far as Hindustan, Bagdad and the Caucasus. Yet in contrast to his campaign to India in 1737-39, his expeditions across the Oxus, ending with the conquest of Bukhara and Khiva in 1740, have hitherto been mentioned only in marginal lines.

Based on data gleaned from Iranian and Transoxanian sources (e.g. ʿĀlamārā-yi nādirī, Jahāngushā-yi nādirī, Tuḥfat al-khānī, Gulshan al-mulūk, Tārīkh-i pādishāhān-i Uzbak wa Afghān and others), this paper argues that Nādir Shāh had been longing at least for Bukhara and the lands beyond the Oxus (Māwarāʾ al-nahr) for a longer time. The campaign of 1740 was planned by him beforehand. Moreover, from 1740 onward, his relationship with local Uzbek elites played a crucial role for his political conduct at home in Khurāsān. Although the narratives of our sources suggest stable ties between Iranian and Uzbek actors at first glance, we observe three major shifts in the perceptions and attitudes of either side in a relatively short period. Depending on a variety of factors, which will be explained and described in the speech, the relationship between the Iranians, especially the Qizilbāsh, and the Uzbeks went through different phases from aversion and suspicion to trust and companionship and finally back to hostile relations. The central question of the paper, however, concerns the impact of social power in the form of patronage and unequal exchange. Indeed, Nādir Shāh’s support and material help contributed to the rise of new elites in Transoxania, and, similarly to the example of the Durrani Afghans, set the course for the establishment of new dynasties in the post-Nadirid age.