Check out the new podcast by Nur Sobers-Khan on the Ottoman History Podcast Site. Here is a description of the podcast:

The legal and social environments surrounding slavery and manumission during the early modern period varied from place to place and profession to profession. In this episode, Nur Sobers-Khan presents her exciting research on the lives of a particular population of slaves in Ottoman Galata during the late eighteenth century, how they were classified and documented under Ottoman law, and the terms by which they were able to achieve their freedom.

On September 14 the new Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada opened. Details below:

The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada offers visitors a window into worlds unknown or unfamiliar: the artistic, intellectual, and scientific heritage of Islamic civilizations across the centuries from the Iberian Peninsula to China.

Its mission is to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the contribution that Islamic civilizations have made to world heritage. Through education, research, and collaboration, the Museum will foster dialogue and promote tolerance and mutual understanding among people.

As a vibrant educational institution, the Museum encourages the full spectrum of public engagement with its diverse Permanent Collection of more than 1,000 objects and its ever-changing roster of exhibitions and innovative programs – including music, performances, culinary traditions, lectures, debates, special events, or film.

The Aga Khan Museum has an international mandate. It maintains strong ties with such institutions as the Musée du Louvre in Paris, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar. It is also deeply committed to forging relationships with Canadian institutions and communities. Together, these global and local connections generate exciting opportunities to enhance scholarship, inspire temporary exhibitions, and produce public programs honouring the spirit of collaboration upon which the Museum is built.


Sackler Gallery Smithonian Institution S1986.97aPhysician with two patients, Baghdad 1224 (Smithsonian Institution, Sackler Gallery SI986.97a)

[The Wellcome Trust is generously funding a joint University of Oxford/University of Warwick publishing project online of an important 13th century medical text. Read about it below and on their website.]

Kitāb ʿUyūn al-anbāʾ fī ṭabaqāt al-aṭibbāʾ
كتاب عيون الأنباء في طبقات الأطباء

In the mid-13th century, a practising physician in Syria named Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿah set himself the task of recording the history of medicine throughout the known world. His book The Best Accounts of the Classes of Physicians covers 1700 years of medical practice, from the mythological beginnings of medicine with Asclepius through Greece, Rome, and India, down to the author’s day. Written as much to entertain as to inform, it is not only the earliest comprehensive history of medicine but the most important and ambitious of the medieval period, incorporating accounts of over 442 physicians, their training, practice, and medical compositions, all interlaced with amusing poetry and anecdotes illustrating their life and character. The ‘Herodotean’ breadth of the book reflects the geographical and cultural reach of the Islamic empire. Written by a man who was a medic and a poet, this highly readable history reflects considerable medical experience and lies at the interface of the serious medical practice of the day with society’s interest in biography and gossip.

The Wellcome Trust is generously funding a joint University of Oxford/University of Warwick project that will make this remarkable historical source available for the first time in a reliable and readable translation and study, as well as a critical edition of the text itself, resulting in a step-change in our knowledge of medical history in Medieval Islam. For nearly 300 years attempts to translate this monumental work have failed owing to the extraordinary range of skills needed to tackle it. This joint project is the first to assemble a team of senior and junior scholars with the required skills and interests to make it happen.

As work proceeds during the three- and one-half-year project, samples of biographical entries will be placed on this web page, with an opportunity provided for general discussion and comment.

Prince in a Garden Courtyard. Folio from an illustrated manuscript (detail). 1525-30, Iran. Opaque watercolor, ink, gold, and silver on paper, 8 9/16 x 4 3/4in. (21.7 x 12.1cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Rogers Fund, 1911 (11.39.1)

Islamic Art, Culture, and Politics: The Connections

Tuesday, April 1, 2014, 6 pm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

With Peter Brown, Yasmine El Rashidi, Haleh Esfandiari, Shaul Bakhash, and Navina Najat Haidar, Curator, Department of Islamic Art

The New York Review of Books and Met Museum Presents examine the living traditions of the Islamic world, in the setting of modern conflict and variations in Muslim culture. Editor Robert Silvers brings together a group of contributors for a panel discussion on the interconnectedness of art and ethos.

Save $5 per ticket with code NYRB14 at Offer expires March 30.

Ibn Sina’s (d. 1037 CE) Qanun, copied in Shiraz in 1645 CE

For anyone interested in the history of Islamic medicine, there are some rare editions of texts by famous Muslim scholars like Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Masawayh, al-Antaki, al-Damiri, and others, including a few 19th century French translations published in North Africa. These are available to view or as pdfs at Yale University’s library. Below is the press release about the collection:


This digitized collection of selected volumes of medical books and manuscripts, dating from 1300 to 1921, is drawn from the Medical Historical Library, Cushing/Whitney Medical Library. This collection reflects the Arabic and Persian intellectual efforts that translated, augmented, and transmitted Greek and Roman medical knowledge to Western societies during the Renaissance. It includes iconic works by authors such as Avicenna and al-Razi.

The Medical Historical Library, originally formed by the joining of three collections by bibliophiles Harvey Cushing, John Fulton, and Arnold Klebs, has over 120,000 volumes dating from the 12th to the 21st centuries. While primarily composed of works in Western medicine and science, a smaller selection of Arabic and Persian books and manuscripts are a “hidden collection” in the Library. Through the support of the Arcadia Fund, the Medical Historical Library was able to digitize Arabic and Persian books and manuscripts, as well as early translations in Latin, French, and English. (more…)

عجايب المخلوقات وغرايب المخلوقات الموجودات

The Arabic manuscripts collection of the Wellcome Library (London) comprises around 1000 manuscript books and fragments relating to the history of medicine. For the first time this website enables a substantial proportion of this collection to be consulted online via high-quality digital images of entire manuscripts and associated rich metadata.

This has been made possible by a pioneering partnership between the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, the Wellcome Library, and King’s College London, with funding from the JISC Islamic studies programme.

These manuscripts are part of the Wellcome Library’s Asian Collection, which comprises some 12,000 manuscripts and 4,000 printed books in 43 different languages. The Islamic holdings include Arabic and Persian manuscripts and printed books, and a small collection of Ottoman manuscripts and Turkish books. The core of these collections relates to the great heritage of classical medicine, preserved, enlarged and commentated on throughout the Islamic world, stretching from Southern Spain to South and South-east Asia.

[Illustration: Miniature illustrating the treatment of a patient, Serefeddin Sabuncuoglu. Jarrahiyatu’l-Hâniya. Millet Library, Ali Emiri, Tib 79.]

In the 7th century Muhammad set in motion one of the world’s great religions, Islam. As an Arabian prophet, Muhammad spoke of the same God known to Jews and Christians for centuries. The message received by Muhammad, and revered today by over a billion Muslims, is contained in the Arabic Qur’an. Although the focus of this scripture is on the spiritual health of mankind, there are also numerous statements regarding physical health and emotional wellbeing. Muhammad himself often spoke regarding medicine and diet, and his words are accepted as authoritative only beneath the level of God’s revelation in the Qur’an. As Muslim scholars in later centuries encountered the medical traditions of classical Greece, Syriac tradition, and India, they compared this indigenous knowledge with the Qur’anic view of man and the prophet’s statements about health. Eventually, a specific literary genre called the “Prophet’s Medicine,” or al-tibb al-nabawi in Arabic, came into existence. In the texts of this genre Muslim scholars tried to merge the most accepted and current scientific knowledge about medicine with the folklore of Muhammad’s Arabia. (more…)

How to Invade Iraq: The Mongol Way

By Peter Konieczny

[Paper given at the 42nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, held at Western Michigan University (2007) and online here.]

When I began researching the Mongol conquest of Baghdad, I came across an account by an Iraqi writer from the early fourteenth-century. With much excitement I found the relevant passage, and began to read it. He summed up the siege and fall of Baghdad with these words: “Even a brief mention of it would be terrible to hear – how much worse its recapitulation in detail! Things happened which I shall not record, imagine them and do not ask for a description!”

Despite this unpromising beginning, I soon found a wealth of information from contemporary writers and chroniclers, including those who were on the saw the event firsthand. For the last couple of years I have been piecing this story together, not only because the story of the first conquest of Baghdad is an interesting one in its own right, but also because it adds some insights into the present-day situation in Iraq.

Despite it being such an important historical event, the story of Baghdad’s fall has been poorly served by historians. Most Muslim historians deal more with alleged collaboration by Shi’ites with the Mongols against the Sunni Abbasid Caliphate than with anything else, while Western historians have usually focused on the most outrageous stories associated with the invasion, often repeating wild claims that millions of people were killed and that Baghdad was completely destroyed by the Mongols.

The short amount of time here prevents me from saying everything I want to say, so in some sections I am going to be very brief. Hopefully, most of you have got my handout which outlines the events and gives some chronicle excerpts. I also have a couple of overheads to show some maps of Iraq, in case someone is not familiar with the country. (more…)

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