TitleKeynote Lecture 2014: The End of Islamic Late Antiquity - Change and Decay in the 10th-Century Middle East (Language: English)
Date/TimeMonday 7 July 2014: 13.00-14.00
SpeakerHugh Kennedy, School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics, School of Oriental & African Studies, University of London
IntroductionBjörn Weiler, Department of History & Welsh History, Aberystwyth University
AbstractDespite the appearance of a new elite region, Islam, and a new elite language, Arabic in the years which followed the early Muslim conquests of the early 7th century, the Caliphate preserved many of the government structures of the Late Antique empires, Byzantine and Sasanian, which it replaced. Most importantly it retained a system of public taxation, collected by a literate and numerate bureaucracy and distributed in cash payments to the employees of the state, both military and civilian. It also developed a vocabulary of administration and the Arabic word sultan, which from the 11th to the 20th century, was effectively a royal title, in the 9th and early 10th century meant the 'state' distinct from individuals or dynasties.

In the 10th century, as a result of fiscal pressures and relentless pressure from the military, these structures began to disintegrate. Increasingly we see a pattern of privatisation of taxation, the distribution of the rights to gather revenues to individual military commanders, and warlords using a fiscal device commonly referred to as iqta’. The ramifications of this spread throughout the state and wider society as complex bureaucratic structures were increasingly redundant. Local lords usurped the functions of the sultan and fiscal disintegration led inevitably to political fragmentation. In some ways the process was similar to the disintegration of government structures in the Roman West from the 5th century onwards, and this lecture will end with a discussion of the similarities and differences in the transformations in West and East.

Please note that admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis as there will be no tickets for the event. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment. The room will open 15 minutes before the beginning of the lectures.