Publication Spotlight: ‘Medieval Central Asia and the Persianate World: Iranian Tradition and Islamic Civilisation’

Medieval Central Asia and the Persianae WorldWhen we think of the Sunni Muslim world today, we tend to think in terms of the great Arab Arab cities of the Middle East – places like Cairo, Damascus and Baghdad. Yet in the Middle Ages, especially the ninth to twelfth centuries, the cultural heart of this world was far to the east, in Central Asian territories now famous only for their obscurity and remoteness – Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and eastern Iran. This vast region, which medieval Muslims called Khurasan, was the stronghold of Sunnism in a period when places likes Egypt and Iraq were under Shiite rule. Thus in fact it was Khurasan that played a crucial role in shaping what we think of as classical Islamic civilisation. From Khurasan came most of the compilers of the canonical collections of the Prophet’s sayings (the hadith), still in use among Sunni Muslims today, and it was there that Sufism, a form of Muslim piety based on the efficacy of holy men and miracles, developed into its recognisable form. For the princes of the Muslim courts of what is now Afghanistan and Uzbekistan some of the great works of classical Arabic and Persian literature were composed. The madrasa, the Muslim school of law which some consider the precursor of or even the inspiration for universities in the west, originated in Central Asia in this period, while even the tall, thin, cylindrical minaret, today the quintessential symbol of Islam, first developed in this region before spreading westward. Read more of this post

Andrew Peacock and The Reception of Islam in Medieval Anatolia

Fatih 5406_098On 6-7 September, Andrew Peacock is holding a workshop on ‘The reception of Islam in Medieval Anatolia‘ in Istanbul, as part of his Islamisation of Anatolia project.

The workshop brings together scholars from the UK, Turkey, Germany, Russia Austria and USA to address the reactions to Islam in Anatolia in the period after the Turkish invasions of the 12th-15th centuries, both among Muslim and non-Muslim communities, attempting to bring together the latest research on the intellectual history of the region. How were non Muslim communities influenced or affected by Islam? What forces influenced conversion? What were the varieties of Islam circulating in Anatolia in this period, and how did they relate to the broader intellectual trajectories of the Muslim world? How did Christians and Muslims view one another?

The Islamisation of Anatolia, c. 1100-1500 is funded by the European Research Council. This five year research project (2012-16) studies the transformation of Anatolia from a Christian to a predominantly Muslim society over the period c. 1100 to 1500AD. Whereas previous research has concentrated almost exclusively on conversion, this study also emphasises the importance of acculturation to Islam, and thus seeks to understand the processes through which Islamic culture took root among the recently converted Turkish as well as Christian populations. Very little is known of the spread of Islam in the region, and the nature both of the religion and culture of Muslim Anatolia is little understood, even though these transformations gave birth to the Ottoman Empire, which played a vital role in shaping European history, and ultimately Turkey itself.

Spotlight on Andrew Peacock

Andrew PeacockDr Andrew Peacock has been Lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies in the School of History since 2011. As an undergraduate he studied Arabic and Persian at the University of Oxford, subsequently moving to Cambridge where he completed his PhD, and held a research fellowship between 2004 and 2007. He also worked in Turkey for several years before coming to St Andrews.  He has published two monographs, Mediaeval Islamic Historiography and Political Legitimacy (2007) and Early Seljuq History (2010), and two edited volumes, The Frontiers of the Ottoman World (2009) and The Seljuks of Anatolia (2013, coedited with Sara Nur Yildiz).

His interests focus on the political and intellectual history and historiography of the eastern Islamic world (roughly, Anatolia, Iraq, Iran, Central Asia) between the 10th and 15th centuries, but he has also published on earlier and later periods, ranging from the Crimea to Indonesia. The consequences of the Turkish invasions of the Middle East in the eleventh century form the subject of a book he is current completing, The Great Seljuk Empire.

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A further research interest is the history of the Indian Ocean region, on which has co-directed a major research project funded by the British Academy looking at links between the Muslim states of Southeast Asia and the Ottoman Empire over the 16th to 20th centuries ( In the course of his research, he has travelled widely in the Middle East and the broader Muslim world, working in countries as varied as Egypt, Sudan, Georgia, Indonesia, Thailand and Uzbekistan.

Central to Andrew’s  research is the written heritage of the Islamic world, much of which is preserved in unpublished manuscripts. This is the focus of his current main project, The Islamisation of Anatolia, c. 1100-1500, funded by a major grant from the European Research Council, which examines the Arabic, Persian and Turkish manuscript heritage of mediaeval Anatolia.Fatih 5406_098

Dr Peacock teaches at all levels and offers honours modules on The Formation of Islamic Iran: from the Arab Conquests to the Seljuq Empire (600-1200) and Nomadic Heritage and Persianate Culture: the Iranian world from the Timurids to the Safavids (1370-1722).

For more on Dr Peacock please visit his staff page on the School of History website.