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2273 (600-900 words): Describe the main social groups, elite professions and positions of power, and social fault-lines in the Middle East and Central Asia between 1300 and 1500, with attention to their relationship to the state/government. Your discussion should address:

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1) ‘Who they were’ in terms of demographics (urban, sedentary farmers, nomadic?), source of livelihood (what did they do?), and language(s) they likely spoke

2) Important relationships they had to other groups–for example, who did they feed others or depend on others for food? did they depend on others for specialized services like literacy & legal or bureaucratic knowledge?

3) What political power they had, and who they depended on for whatever political power they had (even politically powerful people depend on others for their power).

4) Mention sources of historical evidence (primary sources) relating to them & their attitudes–it is not strictly necessary that the sources be from 1300-1500, for example, we may have rich sources of evidence relevant to people in this time from slightly later or considerably earlier, that still help give us a picture of the overall structure of the society

One more thing: this should probably go without saying, but your choice of groups of people to discuss should not be haphazard, it should identify the most important groups and most common patterns of interaction. If you mention a group that is unusual in some way, explain how they are unusual. For example, if somebody asked “what different kinds of people live in Illinois?” and you said “there are dentists, taxi drivers, farmers, and policemen,” that wouldn’t be a very good answer. Instead you might say something like: “We can divide the population into blue-collar workers, educated professionals, and business owners. Educated professionals tend to make more money than the other two groups, but that is not always the case, as some business owners are not highly educated but are very wealthy anyway. Then there are people like artists, actors, and musicians who usually do not earn much money if they are devoted to the arts full-time, although some artists and musicians become extremely rich. Most educated professionals live in the cities…”


So, one way you might describe the social groups of the Islamic world is to start by describing the division between the ruling classes and the commoners, then describe the divisions within these broad categories. Look at the readings on “Diwan” and whatever we have read about ulama, and Subtelny’s “Centralizing Reforms” article and use those to give more detail about what different groups belong to the ruling class…


Bernardini, Michele. “The Shahnama in Timurid Historiography.” Shahnama Studies III,.

Ibn Battuta Ibn Battúta Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325-1354. G. Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.

Ibn Khaldun, et al. The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History – Abridged Edition. United States, Princeton University Press, 2020.

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