Governance and Economics in Early Islamic Historiography : A comparative study of historical narratives of ‘Umar’s caliphate in the works of al-Baladhuri and at-Tabari

University essay from Högskolan i Gävle/Avdelningen för kultur-, religions- och utbildningsvetenskap

Abstract: The thesis examines the level of historical analysis in the works of two third/ninth century Muslim historians, al-Baladhuri and at-Tabari, including their underlying legal, political and socio-economic concerns as manifested in their narratives. By comparing and contextualising their histories regarding the caliphate of ‘Umar, in relation to their social institutions and scholarly disciplines, the purpose is to highlight the subjective agency of the historians as well as the structure of the historiographical discourse in which they formulated their narratives. Based on the notion of discourses as well-defined areas of social fact that defines the forms of (historical) knowledge in societies, the thesis applies de Certeau’s theory of discourses in order to analyse the formation of historical discourses in relation to social institutions and scholarly traditions. By linking the narrative differences to the historians’ scholarly contexts and political concerns, the thesis also show their subjective agency to form certain narratives of history depending on political and scholarly interests, although expressed in the form of the khabar-tradition of ‘Abbasid period. It is argued that the narratives represent attempts to explain social and economic factors involved in civilisational history by means of the accumulated body of what in modern scholarship is labeled “religious knowledge”. Thereby, it also problematises current debates on the level of analytical thinking in early Muslim historiography and suggest new approaches to the subject by discourse analysis. 

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