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The Cambridge History of Egypt
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    Jones, Linda G. 2012. Islām al-kāfir fÄ« ḥāl al-juá¹­ba: sobre la conversión de los “infieles” al Islam durante el sermón del viernes en el Egipto mameluco. Anuario de Estudios Medievales, Vol. 42, Issue. 1, p. 53.

  • Volume 1: 640–1517
  • Edited by Carl F. Petry, Northwestern University, Illinois

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The Cambridge History of Egypt offers the first comprehensive English-language treatment of Egyptian history through thirteen centuries, from the Arab conquest to the present day. The two-volume survey considers the political, socio-economic and cultural history of the world's oldest state, summarizing the debates and providing insight into controversies. As Egypt reclaims a leading role in the Islamic, Arab and Afro-Asian worlds, the project stands as testimony to its complex and vibrant past. Volume 1 addresses the period from the Arab invasion in 640 to the Ottoman conquest in 1517. It opens with a discussion of the preceding centuries to illustrate the legacy of ancient Egypt, and then progresses chronologically according to the major dynastic episodes. Authors have been encouraged to address their topics in the light of new research.


Review of the hardback:‘… a fine addition to any personal or institutional library with interest in the Islamic world … the authors and editors are to be congratulated.’

Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society

Review of the hardback:' … this excellent volume is a reliable summary of recent research in the field.'

Amalia Levanoni - University of Haifa

Review of the hardback:‘… a notable scholarly achievement … the main contribution of the editor, Carl F. Petry, in making this book an important landmark in the modern historiography of Muslim Egypt, lies in his broad vision of the history of Egypt and its people.’

Source: Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam

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  • 1 - Egypt under Roman rule: the legacy of ancient Egypt
    pp 1-33
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    Long-standing assumptions regarding the unique status of Egypt have been based upon a perceived uninterrupted continuity of agricultural life for the great mass of the Egyptian peasantry. Always primarily an agricultural society, Egypt was uniquely dependent for its survival upon the Nile flood waters, harnessed by an extensive network of local irrigation canals. Regardless of language, ethnicity or religion, scribes of Ptolemaic, Roman and Byzantine Egypt utilized almost exclusively the indigenous system. Deprived of most civil and military offices during the long centuries of foreign domination, prominent Egyptian families had turned instead to the temples as their source of income and prestige. Mixed marriages between Egyptians and Greeks were increasingly common. On the political level, Roman efforts to enforce security in Egypt were largely successful until the third century, and an overview of the official history of the province is fairly straightforward.
  • 2 - Egypt on the eve of the Muslim conquest
    pp 34-61
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    Many aspects of Egypt's economy, social structure and spiritual outlook during Late Antiquity persisted into the early seventh century. Egypt returned to Byzantine authority in late 629 but in another five years the Muslim menace became apparent. Surviving Byzantine sources at Constantinople probably owe some of their information to Arab Christian traditions and transmission. They are so fragmentary in their coverage that it would be impossible to understand the Muslim conquests of Egypt by relying exclusively on them. Egypt remained relatively prosperous after the Persian departure. The resumption of coastal trading and the end of the Persian occupation helped to revive the economy of Alexandria and other coastal towns. Egypt had provided financial support for military operations in Syria and many earlier campaigns. The imposition of a heavy tribute on the province temporarily forestalled a Muslim invasion.
  • 3 - Egypt as a province in the Islamic caliphate, 641–868
    pp 62-85
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    The Muslim conquest of Egypt followed naturally from that of Syria. In the aftermath of the final Byzantine surrender of Alexandria in 22/642, the most important decision facing ‘Amr was the settlement of the victorious troops. There is an old tradition that ‘Amr himself wished to establish Alexandria as the capital but the Caliph ‘Umar intervened to forbid this. The most important figure in the political life was the governor or wālī. He was in charge of leading the prayers in the mosque on Fridays and of making sure that the kharāj was collected. In the years which followed the conquest the Muslim community in Egypt was involved in two major developments, expanding Muslim rule in north Africa and responding to the major political upheavals in the rest of the Muslim world. The most striking characteristic of early ‘Abbāsid administration in Egypt is its continuity with the Umayyad period.
  • 4 - Autonomous Egypt from Ibn Tūlūn to Kāfūr, 868–969
    pp 86-119
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    Syria and Egypt witnessed a number of brief military revolts or tribal rebellions during the second half of the ninth century. From 870 to 960, the Arab navy based in Crete joined with fleets sailing out of Syria to disrupt shipping in the Aegean and Adriatic seas. From the time of the Arab conquest, Egypt had played a passive role, but between 868 and 969, Ibn Ṭūlūn and his successors radically transformed this state of affairs, and thereby created a powerful autonomous regime. During the reign of Ibn Ṭūlūn, Theodore, Patriarch of Jerusalem, praised him for his benevolent exercise of power. The situation began to change in the fourth/tenth century, after the fall of the Ṭūlūids. Upon the death of ‘Alī ibn al-Ikhshīd in 355/January 966, Abu‘1-Misk Kāfūr succeeded him without making the pretense of protecting a prince of the family.
  • 5 - The Ismā‘īlī Da‘wa and the Fātimid caliphate
    pp 120-150
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    The Fāṭimid caliphate began as a restoration of the rights of ‘Alīʾs family as descended from ‘Alīʾs sons by the prophetʾs daughter Fāṭima. The spread of the Ismāʿīlī Daʿwa by this time was impressively wide, reaching and included significant cells in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Baḥrayn, the Yemen, and the Maghreb. The Fāṭimid position in Egypt was precarious. Al-Mʿizz recognized that the strength of the Fāṭimid appeal had been seriously weakened by the long standing defection of eastern Qarmatian Ismāʿīlīs. The arrival of the imam, which transformed the new city of Cairo into the seat of an empire, was itself an event that signalled the ultimate achievement of the Fāṭimids. Many eastern Ismāʿīlīs did, however, and those who acceded to the Fāṭimid imamate now regarded Cairo as a destination of pilgrimage and as the center of Ismāʿīlī doctrine and teaching.
  • 6 - The Fātimid state, 969–1171
    pp 151-174
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    At the heart of the Fāṭimid state lay the imamate, which challenged both the political hegemony and the religious authority of the Sunnī ‘Abbasid caliphate. The Fāṭimids were a sect of Shi‘īs one of several groups who argued that ‘Alī ibn Abī Talib should have succeeded the Prophet Muhammad as head of the Islamic community of believers. By the late Fāṭimid period, the state itself had become militarized so that the army was involved in almost every aspect of Fāṭimid government and administration. The Fāṭimids had come to power in north Africa and conquered Egypt largely on the strength and loyalty of a Berber tribal army. Egypt's flourishing economy in the Fāṭimid period was founded not only upon agriculture but also on international trade. Although Islamic civilization in general and Fāṭimid culture in particular were highly urbanized, the majority of men and women in medieval Egypt lived in the countryside.
  • 7 - The non-Muslim communities: Christian communities
    pp 175-197
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    The Christian community in Egypt between 641 and 1517 was an often divided population in a state of constant transition. At the time of the Muslim conquest, the majority of Egyptians were Christians of some sort, Christianity having been the religion of the Byzantine rulers of Egypt for over 300 years. The early development of Christian monasticism in Egypt in third century had a major impact on the growth of Christian institution throughout the Mediterranean world. By the early fourth century, a significant portion of the population of Egypt had become Christian. The Christians of Egypt were treated as dhimmī, falling under the protection extended to the non-Muslim groups that fell under Muslim rule. Written histories, chronicles and biographies, mostly in Arabic but in some cases in Coptic, Greek or other languages, are the most significant sources for the political and institutional history of the Egyptian Christians and their churches.
  • 8 - The non-Muslim communities: the Jewish community
    pp 198-210
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    Egypt had always been the foremost center of Hellenistic Jewry. However, by the time of the Arab conquest, the heyday of the Egyptian Jews had long passed and their numbers were considerably reduced in the suppression of Jewish uprisings. There was also a Samaritan community in medieval Egypt, which was considered to be part of the Jewish subject population by the Islamic governmental authorities during the later Middle Ages. Each Egyptian Jewish community had a common chest for wide-ranging social services which included philanthropy, the upkeep and maintenance of the houses of worship and communal properties, and the salaries of communal officials. The decree of the Sultan al-Malik al-Ṣāliḥ in 1354 went further in imposing restrictions. Non-Muslim men were henceforth to wear a distinctive metal neck ring when visiting the public baths, so that even undressed they could not be mistaken for believers.
  • 9 - The crusader era and the Ayyūbid dynasty
    pp 211-241
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    The Ayyūbid period was a turning-point in Egypt's pre-modern history. The Ayyūbids came to power in the long aftermath of the second crusade. This crusade, having been launched to recover Edessa and fought in central Syria, had little immediate impact on Egypt. For the remainder of the Ayyūbid period the Latin states restricted their military operations to Syria or were junior partners in crusades launched from Europe. Ṣalāh al-Dīn, hitherto a fairly minor figure, made an effort to understand the Fāṭimid court and administrative apparatus, had treatises written to explain the Fāṭimid court and revenue system, and employed Fāṭimid secretaries. The Ayyūbids made money from sultanal monopolies and goods traded on their own account, but they benefited principally from taxes and duties. The combination of affective household ties with the politics of revenue assignment penetrated rulership, military organization, diplomacy, urban administration, education, land tenure, the administration of justice, and bureaucracy.
  • 10 - The Bahrī Mamlūk sultanate, 1250–1390
    pp 242-289
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    Two conditions favoured the emergence of the Baḥrī Mamlūk Sultanate: the evolved state of the mamluk institution in the thirteenth century, and the nascent political hegemony of Egypt in the region and its vital role in a global trade system. For a thousand years, from the ninth until the nineteenth century, the mamlūk institution was a prominent feature of nearly all Islamic societies. The name Baḥrī derives from the Baḥrī regiment whose members dominated the political, economic and military structure of the empire during the last half of the thirteenth century and whose descendants continued to rule during most of the fourteenth. Early Mamlūk Egypt harboured a wide spectrum of Islamic religious expression, a range which included the remnants of Ismāʿīlī Shiʾism, but now increasingly Sunnism and Ṣūfīsm in all their variety. The Baḥrī Mamlūks embraced Sunnism and Ṣūfīsm out of both personal piety and political expediency.
  • 11 - The regime of the Circassian Mamlūks
    pp 290-317
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    The regime of the Circassian Mamlūks formed a bridge between Egypt's most brilliant medieval period and the beginning of the sixteenth century. This chapter describes the military confrontations and international relations of Circassian Mamlūks of the period, 1382-1517, which saw the restoration of the Mamlūk state under the amīr al-Malik al-Ẓāhir Barqūq. Barqūq was Circassian and he had promptly purchased mamlūks of that race. From 1383, non-Circassian elements had been attempting unsuccessfully to overthrow him, who was quickly arrested and replaced in the caliphate. The political changes in the Mamlūk system seem to be linked to two basic causes: the ethnic solidarity of the Circassians and the steady relative growth of the financial means available to the sultans, compared with the revenues of the amīrs as a whole. The Mamlūk state was always run by civilian administrators who made up the various dīwāns in the capital.
  • 12 - The monetary history of Egypt, 642–1517
    pp 318-338
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    This chapter presents an overview of the monetary history of Egypt. It discusses some of the basic terminologies and the theoretical issues and controversies affecting the analysis of old money in Islamic Egypt. The chapter provides an outline of Egyptian monetary history, broken into three periods: from the Muslim conquest to the Fāṭimids; the Fāṭimids and the Ayyūbids; and developments in the Mamlūk period. Lacking a tradition of minting coins, as the early Muslim state expanded beyond the Arabian peninsula it simply adopted the coinage traditions of the lands conquered. As for developments in silver, there are few Fāṭimid dirhams found in the published catalogues of major public collections. This lacuna has been cited in support of the existence of a silver famine across the Islamic world in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. The Mamlūks, like the Ayyūbids before them, minted coins in both Cairo and Alexandria.
  • 13 - Art and architecture in the medieval period
    pp 339-374
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    Cities and their buildings stood at the center of the visual culture of medieval Egypt. Recognized as significant forms in themselves, the cities and their buildings both provided a central focus and constituted an underlying structure to which other elements of the visual world related. Understanding Egypt's visual practices also mandates two different strategies for reconstructing visual culture, namely by noting historical change and dynastic change. During the early decades of the twentieth century, scholars sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York produced the fundamental study of medieval Coptic visual culture, an analogue to Creswell's study of Muslim architecture. Many architectural elements as well as objects and textiles remain from the Fāṭimid period that indicate a significant level of luxury in the arts. The luxury arts of the Mamlūks mentioned by Ibn Khaldūn can be exemplified by textiles and by metalwork.
  • 14 - Culture and society during the late Middle Ages
    pp 375-411
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    Most historians have rightly stressed the social segmentation of medieval Islamic societies, and particularly the cities, of the Near East. Muslim writers defined the different layers of Egyptian society in various ways and the competing demands of religion, wealth, occupation, ethnicity, and educational attainment. The shrinkage of the population was sharpened by the waves of pestilence which swept over Egypt from the mid-fourteenth century, but it may have been in motion before the first epidemic struck in 1347. In Egypt as in other medieval Islamic societies, slavery was largely an urban phenomenon. The most prominent slaves in medieval Egyptian society were the Mamlūks. The Mamlūk regime was tied to an international Sunnī culture which embraced Egypt, Syria, Anatolia and Iran. The Middle Ages saw a boom in the construction and endowment of Ṣūfī khānqāhs, along with madrasas and mosques, Mamlūk amīrs, and other leading political and social figures.
  • 15 - Historiography of the Ayyūbid and Mamlūk epochs
    pp 412-444
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    With the establishment of the Mamlūk dynasty following the murder of the last Ayyūbid sultan of Egypt and the short, curious reign of Shajar al-Durr as Queen of the Muslims, the surviving Ayyūbid historians from Syria continued to record political events of the ruling circles in Egypt. One of the most interesting historians of the Baḥrī Mamlūks, Sayf al-Dīn Abū Bakr ibn al-Dawādārī, was a member of the group called awlād al-nās. The conventional history of Ibn al-Furāt and other Mamluk historians does nothing to anticipate the contribution of Ibn Khaldūn. Apparently unappreciated for his genius during his lifetime and for centuries thereafter, he was finally discovered by the Ottoman historian Na‘īma in the eighteenth century and was subsequently recognized and acclaimed in the west as a major figure in the development of the philosophy of history and sociology.
  • 16 - Egypt in the world system of the later Middle Ages
    pp 445-461
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    An understanding of Egypt's place in its Eurasian and African milieu must begin with some reflections on periodization. Only in the later Middle Ages did Egypt become a major imperial center, with all that implied in the arenas of commerce, religious influence, and cultural expression. When Egypt was captured by an Arab Muslim expeditionary force in the 640s, after a remarkably easy campaign, no one could have predicted the size and durability of the new empire ballooning out of Arabia. Only in the ninth century did Egypt begin to play a major role in the greater Muslim world. The growing role of Fusṭāṭ in Islamic thought and practice was certainly connected with demographic and cultural changes within the country as well. By the middle decades of the ninth century, Lower Egypt had undergone a considerable process of Arabization and Islamization, owing in part to conversion and acculturation among the native population and in part to large-scale immigration by Arab tribes.
  • 17 - The military institution and innovation in the late Mamlūk period
    pp 462-489
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    Upon the accession of Qānṣūh al-Ghawrī to the Cairo sultanate, the Mamlūk oligarchy over which he presided had ruled Egypt and Syria as a unified imperium for more than 250 years. At the outset of the sixteenth century sweeping changes were transforming the political environment of the eastern Mediterranean and southwest Asia. These changes reflected the ambitions of new actors on the regional stage, energetic polities whose agendas no longer accommodated the Mamlūk sultanate's commitment to stasis. By the late ninth/fifteenth century, the economy of the Mamlūk sultanate delivered lower sums of revenue from its traditional productive sectors than in earlier periods. Historians of Mamlūk society during the later Middle Ages have noted the frequent incidence of practices that sheltered revenue-yielding property from direct taxation by the central government. The military elite consequently invested in a wide range of charitable foundations, scholastic institutions, houses of worship and welfare services.
  • 18 - The Ottoman occupation
    pp 490-516
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    The long rivalry between the Mamlūks and the Ottomans that led to war and conquest was a confrontation between two Muslim Sunnī empires, both governed by Turkish-speaking rulers. The predominant language in the central Ottoman provinces was Turkish; the Mamlūk state included Egypt and Syria, with the Ḥijāz within its sphere of influence. The best source on the final decades of the Mamlūk sultanate, the Ottoman conquest, and the first six years of Ottoman rule is the excellent chronicle of Muḥammad Ibn Iyās. An Ottoman force headed by Grand Vizier Sinān Pasha easily defeated the Egyptians. The Ottomans realized that Egypt was necessary to control Syria; there is also little doubt that Khayrbāk's, the governor of the province of Aleppo, advice contributed to Salīm's determination to conquer Egypt. The overwhelming victory of the Ottomans did not put an end to the political ambitions of the Mamlūk elite.

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