Persian Historiography under the Gunpowder Empires

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University of California, Merced
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Sholeh Quinn received her PhD from the University of Chicago in 1993. She is the author of Historical Writing during the Reign of Shah 'Abbas. She is currently working on a biography on Shah 'Abbas and a study of the historiography of the gunpowder empires.

The purpose of this paper is to examine Persianate historical writing in select Persianate chronicles from the Ottoman empire, Safavid Iran, and the Mughal empire.  While all three empires tried to distinguish themselves from the others for political reason, court chroniclers articulated those differences in similar ways.  Until now, the three empires, including their historiographical traditions, have been studied independently of each other.  By examining key chronicles from all three, it will be possible to understand the nature of kingship, political legitimacy, and cultural continuity across the empires.  The paper will conclude that chronicles from the gunpowder empires included many similar elements, including genealogies, dreams of dynastic origins, lists of kingly virtues, and accounts of the benefits of studying history.  The paper will also explore the notion of chronicles as a type of "mirrors for princes" literature, comparing their descriptions of the actual behavior of real kings to the normative ideals to which kings should aspire, as articulated in the Mirrors for Princes literature. 

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