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The Chronicles and Annalistic Sources of the Early Mamluk Circassian Period

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 The Chronicles And Annalistic Sources Of The Early Mamluk Circassian Period
  • Book Author:
Sami G. Massoud
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The coming of al-¸àhir Barqùq (784–91, 792–801/1382–9, 1390–9) to power in 784/13821 heralded what contemporary and modern historians alike describe as the beginning of the Circassian period of the Mamluk Sultanate.2 The dawn of this new political epoch coincided with pivotal changes occurring at the level of historiography.

During the second half of the eighth/fourteenth and the beginning of the ninth/fifteenth centuries, the intellectual scene witnessed the passing of an entire generation of historians, those who had lived through and just beyond the reigns of al-Nàßir Mu˙ammad ibn Qalàwùn. Al-Bidàya wa’l-Nihàya fi’l-Tàrìkh,3 the main historical work of Ibn Kathìr (d. 774/1373), the last representative of the “original Syrian school,”4 does not extend beyond 768/1366–7.5

The two works of another Syrian historian, one who was however not con-nected to the Syrian school, Badr al-Dìn Ibn Óabìb al-Óalabì’s (d. 779/1377) Tadhkirat al-Nabìh fì Ayyàm al-Manßùr wa Banìh6 and Durrat al-Aslàk fì Mulk Dawlat al-Atràk7 end respectively in 770/1369 and 777/1376. As for Egypt, the other and major pole of the Mamluk Sultanate, Nathr al-Jumàn fì Taràjim al-A’yàn, the chronicle of al-Muqrì (who was still alive by 766/1364–5), the last of the Egyptian histo-rians to have been a contemporary of al-Nàßir Mu˙ammad, ends in 745/1345.8

The emergence of new historians, the likes of ‘Abd al-Ra˙màn Ibn Khaldùn (732–808/1332–1406),9 Nàßir al-Dìn Ibn al-Furàt (735–807/1335–1405),10 Zayn al-Dìn ˇàhir ibn Badr al-Dìn Ibn Óabìb al-Óalabì (after 740–808/1340–1406),11 Íàrim al-Dìn Ibràhìm Ibn Duqmàq (745–809/1349–1407),12 Shihàb al-Dìn Ibn Óijjì (751–816/1350–1413),13 Abù Mu˙ammad Ma˙mùd ibn A˙mad Badr al- Dìn al-‘Aynì (762–855/1361–1451),14

 Taqì al-Dìn A˙mad al-Maqrìzì (766–845/1364–1441),15 Mu˙ammad ibn Mu˙ammad Ibn Íaßrà,16 Shihàb al-Dìn Ibn Óajar al-‘Asqalànì (773–852/1372–1449),17 Ibn Qà∂ì Shuhba (779–851/1377–1448),18 and others, all of whom lived a substantial portion of their life during Barqùq’s reign and the begin-ning of his son’s and/or were actually connected to their regimes, would ensure a solid transition in historical writing from the Turkish to the Circassian periods.

 These would in their turn be succeeded by another wave of authors starting with Jamàl al-Dìn Yùsuf Ibn Taghrì-birdì (812–74/1409–70),19 al-Jawharì al-Íayrafì (819–900/1416–94),20 Shams al-Dìn Mu˙ammad al-Sakhàwì (830–902/1427–97),21

Mu˙am-mad ibn A˙mad Ibn Iyàs (852–930/1427–97),22 etc. The existence of this long succession of historians, including authors like Ibn Khaldùn, al-Maqrìzì, Ibn Taghrìbirdì and Ibn Iyàs, who have long been inex-tricably associated with the history of the Circassian Mamluk Sultanate,23 makes this period one of the best documented.

At the level of historiography, however, the two eras of the Mamluk Sultanate, the Ba˙rì and Burjì,24 have not received equal attention from modern scholars.

Thanks chiefly to the efforts of Donald P. Little and Ulrich Haarmann,25 Ba˙rì Mamluk historiography, particularly that of the reign of al-Nàßir Mu˙ammad, has been subjected to detailed and comprehensive source analysis. No comparable research though has been undertaken concerning Burjì historiography.26 More to the point, the period that witnessed the withering away of Qalàwùnì rule and the rise of the Circassians is particularly understudied.

With the exception of a certain number of studies of a limited scope and the few words scattered here and there in scholarly articles and monographs,27 as well as in the introductory notices authored by the editors of primary sources, nothing for example compares with the surveys written by Linda S. Northrup and Carl S. Petry on, respec-tively, the early Ba˙rì and late Circassian periods.28

This is not to say that we do not have at our disposal any data concerning this historiography. Even the work done by scholars on the Ba˙rì period has produced results that are relevant to Burjì historians.

Little, Northrup and Reuven Amitai have all noted that al-Maqrìzì relied heavily on Ibn al-Furàt for his accounts of the events of what amounts to much of the second half of the seventh/thir-teenth and the early years of the eighth/fourteenth centuries,29 and their conclusions echo those of the research undertaken here.30

Amitai has also remarked on the presence in al-Maqrìzì’s writing of a literary device that consists of conflating two narrative elements in order to produce what is basically a different one, a technique used by numerous Burjì historians.31

To these findings and others, one ought to add the works done on Circassian historiography proper. Eliahu Ashtor was the first to analyze the manuscript of the anony-mous Jawàhir al-Sulùk fi’l-Khulafà” wa’l-Mulùk,32 a chronicle of the late ninth/fifteenth and early tenth/sixteenth centuries that is part of the same historiographical tradition as Ibn Iyàs’s Badà”i’ al-Zuhùr,33 and ‘Abd al-Bàsi† al-Mala†ì’s Nayl al-Amal fì Dhayl al-Duwal,34 a history that runs from 744/1343 to 896/1491.35

 For his part, regarding quantitative data, Jere Bacharach has underlined the existence of patterns of copying by Ibn al-Furàt from Ibn Duqmàq, by al-Maqrìzì from Ibn al-Furàt, by Ibn Óajar from both al-‘Aynì and al-Maqrìzì, etc.,36  all of which have been attested in the chapters below.37

Amalia Levanoni and the author of these lines have for their part analysed the sources pertaining to two themes, respectively, the rise of Barqùq and the opinions expressed by Mamluk historians about this sultan over the course of the entire Burjì period.38 Irmeli Perho and Little have examined the relative merits of the works of, respectively, al-Maqrìzì and Ibn Taghrìbirdì, and al-Maqrìzì and al-‘Aynì, as his-torians of contemporary events.39

Lastly, David C. Reisman has greatly contributed to the field by “discovering” and then analysing sections until then unavailable of Ibn al-Furàt’s Tàrìkh al-Duwal and Ibn Duqmàq’s Nuzhat al-Anàm preserved in a manuscript in the hand of Ibn Qà∂ì Shuhba.40 He also produced the most detailed analysis yet of the genesis of the dhayl this last author wrote to the history of his teacher Ibn Óijjì.41

However, whether limited by the very nature of their research objectives or by the absence of certain primary sources, and despite the wealth of valuable data they have unearthed, none of these stud-ies has managed to provide an overall assessment of early Burjì his-toriography.42

 This means that, with the exceptions noted just above, globally speaking we still have not established the value of Burjì historical works in their own right or in relation to one another. The research undertaken here therefore endeavours to fill this lacuna by providing a critical analysis of the works of early Burjì historians with regard to their “originality, sources, and possible interdepen-dence.”43 It reproduces, albeit with some modifications, the method-

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