MMS-II - Mamlukisation of the Mamluk Sultanate II

(provisional project webpage — new website in preparation)

Historiography, Political Order and State Formation in 15th-Century Egypt and Syria

(ERC-Consolidator Grant Project, 2017-21)

This project offers the first comprehensive survey and collective historical interpretation of the diverse and voluminous range of Arabic historiographical texts that were produced in the Syro-Egyptian Mamluk sultanate between 1410 and 1470 and that have continued to define historical imaginations to this very day.

The main research question of this project concerns an understanding of the particular relationships between this historiographical material and the regularly changing social orders that were produced by and around the different sultans and their courts reigning and ruling from Cairo in the decades between 1410 and 1470. The main hypothesis of the project is that of the invention of a tradition of one political order, a cultural process captured by the neologism ‘Mamlukisation’ and referring to the construction of a particular social memory of one, longstanding and continuous sultanate of military slaves (mamlūks) that connects and explains a socio-culturally fragmented 15th-century present through the memory of a shared and glorious 13th- and 14th- century past. MMS-II claims that this social memory of the Mamluk state was discursively produced and reproduced in various forms that include contemporary claims to historical truth.

MMS-II has the following specific objectives.

  1. It aims to create a reference database of metadata for the production, reproduction and consumption of all Arabic historiographical texts from the period 1410-1470. (joint venture with the development of the MPP app)

  2. It will consist of the in-depth contextualized study of particular sets of these texts, deconstructing their structures and meanings through historicizing narratological and social semiotic methodologies.

  3. It will identify and explore the political vocabularies that were deployed in these texts, as signifiers of a particular political discourse that informed these texts and that, at the same time, materialized through them.

Generating an entirely new understanding of this historiography as part and parcel of a particular inter-subjective political dynamic, MMS-II will make a vital and groundbreaking contribution to current understandings of late medieval Islamic social and cultural history. This project will generate better understandings of the booming business of the period’s main textual source material as well as of their complex socio-cultural contexts and it will show an entirely new way forward in deconstructing both the problematic structuralism of a Mamluk state model and the disciplinary boundaries that continue to separate Mamluk social history’s study of relations from Mamluk cultural history’s study of meanings. 

This ERC Consolidator Grant project will run from January 2017 to December 2021.

PI: J. Van Steenbergen 

Coordinator: M. Termonia (2017-21)

DH research assistants: M. Maslouh (2017-19), G. Van Den Bossche (10/2018-12/2018)

Post-docs: K. Goudie (2018-20), T. Sabraa (2018), Z. de Pierrepont (2018-21), R. Ben Othman (2018-21), M. Banister (2018-21)

We are currently looking to hire one more postdoc (fulltime, 2019-21) and one more research assistant (halftime, 2019-21) (application deadline: 15 November 2018); click on the links for more information.

The detailed project text can be consulted and/or downloaded here.


[the MMS-II project is funded by a

European Research Council Consolidator Grant