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Title: Managing paperwork in Mamluk Egypt (c.1250-1517) : a documentary approach to archival practices
Author: Livingston, Daisy
ISNI:       0000 0004 7960 6258
Awarding Body: SOAS University of London
Current Institution: SOAS, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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No state archives and few institutional archives survive from the medieval Middle East. In an argument from silence, this absence has led to generalisations about the value of documents in Muslim societies, particularly in contrast to the abundant archival material surviving from medieval Europe. Nonetheless, documents do survive. The recent 'archival turn' offers new avenues to move beyond the 'absence' approach. This trend highlights the entrenchment of archives within their social and cultural milieus, and their dependence on historical contingency. Shifting from a fixed understanding of 'the archive' towards a flexible conceptualisation of practices, this approach is suited to the surviving medieval Arabic documents, which are heterogeneous, fragmentary, and originate in varied social contexts. Engaging with this scholarship, this thesis investigates archival practices in Mamluk Egypt. It is exploratory in nature, using two distinct documentary corpora: waqf-related documents from the Wizarat al-Awqaf in Cairo, and the varied documents kept in the Papyrus Collection of the Austrian National Library in Vienna. Through these sources, I question what extant documents can inform us about archival practices. The use of original documents to examine archiving is relatively new in Mamluk history, where historians have overwhelmingly relied on prescriptive sources, such as chancery manuals produced at the state level. Ultimately, this thesis asserts the value of using documents to research the history of archives. These sources allow us to look beyond state-level archiving to explore the full range of practices manifest in the varied domains that produced, used, and preserved documentary traces. I investigate two such domains: the well-known domain of waqf, and the lesser-known domain of administration in areas geographically distant from Cairo. By offering an exploration of archival practices in these two, very different, domains, this thesis challenges some of the received narratives that surround the archives of the medieval Middle East.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral