The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals.

Author:Barkey, Karen
Position:Book review

The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals. By STEPHEN F. DALE. New Approaches to Asian History. Cambridge: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2010. Pp. xiv + 347. $80 (cloth); $31.99 (paper).

Stephen Dale has written an important and highly informative comparative study of three great Muslim empires that represent the heyday of Islamic power before European hegemony. They were great empires not only because of the vast territory they controlled (in Europe from the gates of Vienna through the Balkans, and in Africa most of North Africa, and through Asia to the far reaches of Bengal and South India) but also because of the rich and diverse populations they ruled for centuries, the cultures they embraced, and the lasting legacy they left in the many successor states of the region. They were also great Islamic empires since they still remain today important examples of established forms of state-society relations--cultural, religious, and symbolic blueprints of the diversity with which Islamic societies and Islamic states accommodated the lands they controlled and the often peaceful synthesis they were able to construct. These three empires are rarely compared, especially since the comparison requires expertise in several languages, historiographies, and often arduous archival work. Here the author embarks on a comparative study to demonstrate the degree to which these three empires, which shared an important historical era and interacted through a vast territorial expanse, were in fact highly intertwined, economically but also culturally in the production of artistic and intellectual knowledge. He does this as an initial exploration to show scholars the wealth of comparative opportunities, the shared experiences, and the wide-ranging consequences of such work. He succeeds at this task and has produced a highly readable, accessible text that will be effortlessly functional in both undergraduate and graduate classes.

The book is divided into different chapters that explore the rise of the three empires, their cultural and economic content, the inter-imperial connections along the lines of commerce and economic integration, as well as cultural, literary, and symbolic exchanges that were based on a set of important shared imperial, religious, and ideological roots. The book concludes with a comparative description of the various trajectories of decline. The author achieves a nice balance between some generalizations and sufficient detail...

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