Mamluk History and Culture

Mamluk history and culture (1250-1517)

Embedded in the rich traditions of the Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies, Islamic history research at UGent specialises in the history and culture of Egypt and Syria in the Mamluk period (ca. 1250-1517 CE). 

In general, our research aims to look at Mamluk history and culture through a new lens, questioning standard accounts of Mamluk singularity and reconnecting it with the wider late medieval and early modern world. All Mamluk research at UGent, therefore, is being pursued within the overarching remit of developing and qualifying a different research paradigm for late medieval Syro-Egyptian political history, of regular radical social and cultural transformation of political elites, institutions and discourses in a complex practical environment that continuously shifted between a predominantly patriarchal and a more complex and centralised patrimonial social system and that was imagined, produced and reproduced as some Cairo-centred hegemonic local/regional form of the dawlat al-atrāk (rather than as any construction of a Mamluk sultanate, state or empire). This has emerged out of the research pathway followed by the group’s Principal Investigator, Jo Van Steenbergen, and is currently being pursued in various projects on Mamluk politics, society and culture, that all share common methodological approaches through prosopography, social network analysis, social semiotics, narratology & critical discourse analysis. The following three work packages are currently being developed: