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Title:The civilian elite of Cairo in the later Middle Ages
Author:Petry, Carl F.ISNI
Series:Princeton studies on the Near East
City of publisher:Princeton, NJ
Publisher:Princeton University Press
Geographic term:Egypt
Mameluke polity
Abstract:This study presents a quantitative analysis of the civilian elite in Mamluk Cairo. Using information about 4,631 individuals drawn from two 15th-century biographical dictionaries ('Al-Daw' al-Lami fi Ayan al-Qarn al-Tasi' ('The light that illuminates notables in the ninth century') by al-Sakhawi, and 'Al-Manhal al-Safi wa'l-Mustawfi bad al-Wafi' ('The pure spring of the fulfillment after the completion') by Ibn Taghri-Birdi), the author explores the geographic origins of the civilian elite (the 'ulama') and the distribution of their residences and places of work in Cairo. On the basis of this analysis, the author reassesses several current theories about the status and function of 'ulama' in Egypt during the later medieval period. He challenges in particular the concept that members of the Muslim elite were vocationally unspecialized. He isolates several distinct and quite specialized professional groups (bureaucrats, jurist-scholars, religious functionaries) and relates them to the dominant military class. The model argued here sheds light on the impact of militarist rule in the central Islamic lands, prevalent between the Mongol invasions and the high Ottoman period.