Sixth Conference of the School of Mamluk Studies
Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan 15-17 June 2019
Even before our project’s official inaugural workshop in Marburg, some of the EGYLandscape project team attended the annual School of Mamluk Studies in Japan. In addition to individual members presenting papers, the project also hosted a specialized panel: “Irrigation, Landscapes, and Environment: Towards a History of Mamluk Agriculture,” which was chaired by project member Prof. Wakako Kumakura (Tokyo University of Foreign Studies).
In addition to presenting the panel, there were a number of other EGYLandscape members present, which gave us a great opportunity to get together and talk about our future plans and the upcoming Marburg workshop. Also attending the conference were project leader Prof. Nicolas Michel (Aix-Marseille University) and Prof. Daisuke Igarashi (Waseda University).
Here you can find the abstracts for the EGYLandscape Panel’s talks.
Yossef Rapoport (Queen Mary University of London):
“Water Management, Iqṭāʿ and Tribes in the Fayyum, from Fatimids to the Mamluks”
This paper will describe the development of the irrigation system of the Fayyum from the eleventh to the thirteenth century, based on the uniquely rich sources for the history of the province. Fatimid-era sources show the Fatimid state to be directly involved in the supply and management of water resources. An irrigation schedule dating from 421/1030 CE, based on a survey (kashf) of the main branches of the canals in the Fayyum, includes a thorough technical explanation of the structure and function of the Lahun Dam, the locations of the main canals, the water rights of each village unit, and the schedule of opening and closing of the main canals. Another eleventh-century account shows that the key event in the annual cycle of local irrigation, the blocking of the Dam at al-Lahun, was an official ceremony attended by the local governor.
Following the great crisis of 1068-1073, which led to desertion of villages on the edges of the province, and as a result of decentralisation brought about through the introduction of the iqṭāʿ system in the twelfth century, management of water resources has been devolved to local officials and village communities. When al-Nābulusī visited the province in 643/1245, his main informant on the local irrigation system is the khawlī al-baḥr (Overseer of the Canal). The annual blocking of the dam at al-Lahun is described as led by self-appointed engineers from among the local villagers. Management of water rights appears to have been based on tribal networks, and amirs who hold fragmentary iqṭāʿ¬ units had limited influence on the water supply. While some aspects of this process may have been unique to the Fayyum, I will argue that the same picture was probably true of other Egyptian provinces under the Ayyubids and the Bahri Mamluk sultans.
Stuart Borsch (Assumption College)
“Water Management and the late Fatimid Restructuring of Egypt”
I present here a theory that explains why Egypt, c. 1100 CE, transformed its internal structure by creating large provinces in the place of the much smaller kuras, and argue that water management must have been a primary consideration. By the eleventh century, an increasing number of large-scale flood canals (the largest and longest in the Nile Delta: those which were taking the place of the old Deltaic river channels) were calling for effective water management. When new provincial boundaries were created, it is striking that the boundaries of the new provinces match exactly the boundaries of the individual water management systems, canal-by-canal. It seems that the intention was that each of these twelve or so large-scale canals be contained within a single province, a single-water management system. And therefore, though there could be more than one canal per province, the general rule seems to have been that a canal should not cross provincial boundaries. Quantitative simulation, the water law texts, and Ayyubid memoranda make the case that regional control of water law (and a single- authority for each canal) was a necessary corollary for what was a relatively new system of large-scale flood canal; after all, the sharing of canals or water- management across provincial boundaries would have presented the risk of water conflict. I will use spatial mapping, documentary evidence, and quantitative hydraulic simulation to show how the dictates of water management account for and explain this comprehensive alteration to Egypt’s administrative structure that included its internal geography (kūra to ʿamal), its political governance (ṣāḥib al- kūra to wālī), and its economy (qabāla system to regional statist).
Muhammad Shaaban (Queen Mary University of London / Philipps-University of Marburg)
“Counting Dirhams, Olives and Wheat: The Relationship Between Urban Institutions and Endowed Agrarian Property in the Haram al-Sharif Documents”
The relationship between urban religious institutions and the endowed agrarian properties that helped fund them has often been a subject of scholarly attention. Recent scholarship has focused on the growing agrarian assets of endowments in the late medieval period, especially in Egypt, from the perspective of political developments or socio-economic disasters like the Black Death. This macro lens vantage point provides evidence of historical trends but also leaves many questions unanswered. While the extensive building programs of Mamluk sultans and amirs left an indelible imprint on the urban landscape, changes in the agrarian landscape which funded and fed these institutions are relatively opaque and largely unexplored in comparison. This paper will examine records found in the Haram al-Sharif collection in order to discuss issues of fiscal and asset management that will tackle these changes from a different perspective. An exploration of these records will not only provide a better understanding of how agrarian properties helped fund endowments, thereby placing their growing popularity in the late Mamluk period in the context of recent scholarship, but also demonstrate the ways in which endowments influenced agricultural development and markets. The accounting records, declarations and other legal documents found in this collection provide a closer view of the interactions between urban and rural environments. These sources offer perspectives from the managerial aspect of endowments past the point of their inception documented in endowment deeds. The mundane but far more revealing daily operations of specific institutions permits individual case studies that can be integrated into the larger discussion on these developments for a more nuanced understanding, thereby posing further avenues of inquiry.
Anthony Quickel (Philipps-University of Marburg)
“A Topography of Taste: Mapping Mamluk Cairo’s Food Markets”
The layout of Mamluk Cairo’s marketplaces and their orientation and distribution throughout the city is increasingly being understood. Critical to studying these markets is an understanding that their positioning within the city was representative of various factors, most of which were economic in nature, but also relating to demographic change and sultanic policy. The food markets of the city are a highly illustrative example of this process of siting and spacing, sometimes determinedly, markets throughout the city’s quarters. This paper will explore the aspects of the spatiality of food markets in Mamluk Cairo as both a consequence of the historical urban development of the city but also with regards to changing economic (especially agricultural) and environmental realities. Examples of these transformations or critical factors include the shifting course of the Nile, the city’s trade with Bilad al-Sham, Cairo’s grain and sugar supplies, and more. Thus, this paper will show that by looking at the topography of the city’s food markets alongside the historical and economic developments of the Mamluk Sultanate, a more complete portrait of the economic and urban development of the city may be gained as well as glimpses to the state of the Mamluk rural and natural environment.