Universiteit Leiden

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Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society

Historical Muslim Societies

How did institutions and structures operate throughout the Muslim world from the earliest history of Islam into the early modern period?

From officially sanctioned top-down systems to informal bottom-up initiatives, this programme will examine how networks were established and relations expressed, and how these dissolved or evolved into new associations and contacts to fit changing historical circumstances. Interactions with newly introduced or outside forces, as well as changes in patterns of interaction with established powers and internal developments, will be taken into consideration.

From networks of scholars, officials and merchants to buildings, books and letters, we will examine tangible and intangible expressions of the interlocking realities of diversity and change on the one hand, and unity and continuity on the other throughout the Muslim world in this period.

The period under examination can be divided roughly into four periods. In the first period, starting from developments in the Near East before the rise of Islam, we aim to understand the world that gave rise to the epochal events of the seventh century.

The second period covers the formative first three centuries of Islamic history, in which many of the institutions, texts, models and ideas that formed the basis of Islamic institutions and structures in the centuries to come were established.

In the third period we explore the rising of Mongol-Turkish polities and the profound changes on the makeup of the Muslim world they wrought.

The fourth period takes the programme into the Mamluk, Ottoman and Saffavid empires and the increased interactions with European powers, as well as internal changes, that this new era heralded.

The overarching aim of this programme is to trace how continuities were fostered or created within processes of historical change, and how change was made possible within the confines of (perceived or invented) continuity.

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