Keeping the peace in Premodern Islam: theory and practice of diplomacy under the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517)
AbstractLong before the modern United Nations, rulers from all over the world established efficient means to communicate and interact: the exchanges of messengers. What were the reasons for sending messengers? On which basis did rulers interact and how? Which patterns ruled such exchanges? Against the common assumption of an “ancient” world dominated by wars and conquest, the present project aims to show how an international society emerged in the premodern Islamic world, one dominated by mutual recognition among rulers seeking to keep the peace and maintain privilege. Diplomacy, rather than war, became the norm and was facilitated by the development of a complex and dynamic set of rules recognized and understood by all participants. In order to understand this intriguing machinery, the project takes as starting point the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt and Syria (1250-1517)— a major actor in the premodern Islamic history—, and scrutinizes the political, legal, administrative and symbolic basis that ruled the patterns of diplomatic exchanges between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, on the one hand, and within the Muslim world itself, on the other. Based on original and unpublished material, the project will produce the first comprehensive narrative of diplomatic history in the premodern Islamic world.