Lecture 8 – Political Developments: Abbasids, Fatimids, Ayyubids

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Published on 9 Feb 2014
Lecture 8 – Political Developments
The Formation of Regional States
oThe reasons for the collapse of the Abbasid Empire
oRegional States:
Iran: The Samanids (875-1004)
Egypt: The Fatimids (965-1164) and beyond
Al-Andalus (750-1050) and beyond
North Africa
The Disintegration of the Abbasid Empire
oFrom the mid-ninth century, the Abbasid Empire is slowly losing its
outlaying territories
oBy the 10th century, the Middle East and North Africa appear as
constellation of semi-independent states
oWe refer to this process as state formation
Occurred within certain geographical boundaries which determined
the carrying capacity, size and organization of these units from
antiquity until today
In most cases a historical pattern can be observed after the Empire
pattern no longer applies, such as in the case of the Roman,
Byzantine and Sasanian case
The Islamic Empire is no different
oIt will continue to shape their political destiny during the pre-modern and
modern periods
Why Does an Empire Disintegrate? Lessons from the Abbasid Experience
oWeakness of political structures?
Was the Caliphate a viable political institution?
Based on the historical evidence it appears to have suffered from a
series of weak and dysfunctional rulers
Pattern will effect each and every regional dynasty
oToo large a geographical span?
Lines of communication were too long
Took months to get from Baghdad to Central Asia
oToo diversified culturally?
Racial and linguistic diversity prevented the formation of cultural
Unity could be viewed as cemented through religion and law
However, within each unifying factor, there were dividing lines:
Shi’ism in religion and the four different legal schools
oAdministrative structures failed as well
Tax collection from the provinces collapsed
Army went through transformations from a ‘national Arab army it
was transformed into a mercenary army composed of Turkish,
Kurdish, Armenian, Black soldiers who were recruited from any
ethnicity outside the Empire
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Was the Abbasid Empire Collapse really different from that of the Roman or
British Empires?
oThere are many similarities uniting the world failing empires
oEmpires clearly collapse from within, namely their political and
organizational structures are not flexible and unable to adjust to changing
oEconomic factor which always underlines the collapse
What provided revenue for the Empire to keep its control over its
vast territories disappears and the center can no longer control the
development of new strategies
The Samanids (875-1004) and the case of Persia
oGeographical location:
North east
Near Caspian Sea, up and around it and north east Iran
First to break from Empire
The Disintegration – 1. Eastern Iran
oEastern province of Eastern Iran and Transoxiana used to be Farsi
speaking and economically developed before the conquest
oThe region saw its first semi-independent state by the end of the 9th
century with the Samanid dynasty coming to power in the oasis of
Bukhara and the capital Samarqand
oSamanids benefitted from widespread urbanization and intensive trade
oHigh standards of living achieved by the people living within its cities is
attested to by luxury industries such as glass making
oIts currency, volume, velocity and monetary circulation was the most
impressive of the medieval Islamic world
Most dramatic explosion of money seen in the Islamic world
Currency, mostly silver
Monetization of the rural areas
The Samanid Trade with Northern Europe
oMillions of silver dirhams deposited in hoards along the Russian river and
Scandinavia show how important was the trade
oWhat was bought with so much money?
Geographers specify furs, honey and metal objects, but the large
amount still remains a mystery
It is possible that it paid for slaves
oSilver supply
Silver mines, currently located in the Islamic republics of the
former Soviet Union show signs of intensive processing facilities
and settlements around the mines
Small villages and cities, mosques and markets show how the rise
of trade affected the expansion of minting and monetary circulation
and the commercialization of the economy
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