A Conference in Honor of John E. Woods in recognition of his contributions to the field of Middle Eastern history, his 51 years of teaching and service to the University of Chicago, and his signal role in the development of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and its MA program.

March 25, 2023
Franke Institute
1100 E 57th St
Unit 102
Chicago, IL 60637

This conference deals with the rise of states and empires in both the Middle East and Central Asia and focuses on the Middle Periods. These new political formations originating with the Turco-Mongolian tribal societies of the Central Asia, spread rapidly across the Middle East. In this context, complex relations between military slaves and autonomous governors who challenged imperial authority located in the Middle East, and new imperial Muslim ideologies, led to novel political, theological, and social constructions. In the last two decades, the study of both Central Asian Empires and medieval Muslim empires has gone through several shifts with the discovery and reevaluation of new sources. Evidence from material culture, rereading of texts such as chronicles, biographical dictionaries, poetry collections, and inscriptions, as well as engagement with art history, intellectual history, history of medicine and science, and the study of comparative empires, have changed our perceptions of these empires.

Sponsored by the Franke Institute, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Department of History, and Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations.

For remote access, please register.

Tentative Schedule

8:30AM Welcome and Breakfast

Introduction and Acknowledgements
Professors Holly Shissler and Ahmed El Shamsy


Opening Remarks
Professor John E. Woods

Chair: Holly Shissler


“Bahri Sultans, Nomadic Wives and Feeble Dynasties in the Early Mamluk Sultanate"
Anne F. Broadbridge, Professor of History, University of Massachusetts Amherst

“Jesus and the Sultan Whose Name Begins with “M”: A Christian View on Mamluk and Mongol Conflict”
Patrick Wing, Associate Professor of History, University of Redlands  


Coffee Break


“Revenue Sharing Networks Within the Mongol Empire and Transregional Contacts Across Eurasia”
Carol Fan, Teaching Fellow, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, University of Chicago

“Why did Shahrukh Succeed Timur?: Contractual Political Ideas in the Timurid Empire”
Evrim Binbaş, Department of Islamic Studies and Middle Eastern Languages, Universität Bonn

11:50AM-12:30PM Discussion
12:30-2:00PM Lunch

Chair: Cornell Fleischer


 "Middle Period Islamic Numismatics: Challenges and Opportunities"
Warren C. Schultz, Professor of History, DePaul University

"The Timurid Historiographical Legacy in Early Modern Islamicate Empires"
Sholeh A. Quinn, Professor of History, UC Merced

“Chasing the Ideal Library: The Ottoman Scholar Müeyyedzade (d. 922/1516) and his Bibliophile Endeavors”
Judith Pfeiffer, Alexander von Humboldt Professor for Islamic Studies, Universität Bonn

3:30-4:15PM Discussion

Concluding Remarks
Cornell Fleischer


Participant Bios

Evrim Binbaş received his PhD degree from the University of Chicago. After seven years at Royal Holloway, University of London, he moved to the Institute of Oriental and Asian Studies at the University of Bonn. He studies early modern Islamic history with a particular focus on the Timurid and Turkmen dynasties in the fifteenth century. His first book on the Timurid historian Sharaf al-Din ‘Ali Yazdi (d. 1454) was published by Cambridge University Press (Intellectual Networks in Timurid Iran: Sharaf al-Dīn 'Alī Yazdī and the Islamicate Republic of Letters). Intellectual Networks in Timurid Iran shared the 2017 British-Kuwait Friendship Society Prize in Middle Eastern Studies and the 2018 Association for Iranian Studies Said Sirjani Book Prize Honorable Mention Award. It was also shortlisted for the 2017 Gladstone Prize by the Royal Historical Society in Britain, and for the 2017-2018 Book of the Year Award in Iranian Studies by the National Library and Archives of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Currently Evrim is working on three different book projects. Together with John E. Woods of the University of Chicago, he is preparing a critical edition of Yazdi’s Zayl-i Zafarnama, which is the second and so-far unpublished volume of the Zafarnama. He is also editing, again together with John E. Woods, a handbook on the Timurid dynasty titled The Timurid Dynasty: A Handbook. This book was commissioned by Brill in Leiden, and when it is published, it will include contributions from more than thirty scholars working on early modern Islamic history. Finally, he is preparing a monograph on the modalities of sovereignty. In his new monograph, Binbaş highlights the non-monarchical and divided forms of sovereignty in the early modern Islamic world.

Judith Pfeiffer is the Alexander von Humboldt Professor for Islamic Studies at the University of Bonn. Her research focuses on the social, political, and intellectual history of the Nile to Oxus region with a particular emphasis on Iran, Central Asia, and Anatolia during the Later Middle and Early Modern Periods. She has a special interest in the circulation of knowledge, and the ways in which political and confessional boundaries were re-negotiated and re-defined during the post-Mongol period. Her publications include History and Historiography of Post-Mongol Central Asia and the Middle East (2006, co-edited with Sholeh Quinn), Politics, Patronage and the Transmission of Knowledge in 13th-15th Century Tabriz (2013), and Rashīd al-Dīn’s Bayān al-haqāʾiq (2016). Receiving her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 2003, she taught Islamic studies and Islamic history as University Lecturer and Associate Professor at the University of Oxford from 2003-2016. Since 2016 she is Alexander von Humboldt Chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Bonn. Her current research is dedicated to early modern libraries and their afterlives.

Sholeh Quinn is Professor of History at the University of California, Merced in the Department of History & Critical Race and Ethnic Studies. Her research focuses on the history of early modern Iran. She is the author of Historical Writing during the Reign of Shah ‘Abbas: Ideology, Imitation, and Legitimacy in Safavid Chronicles (2000), Shah Abbas: the King Who Refashioned Iran (2015), and Persian Historiography across Empire: the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals (Cambridge University Press, 2021), and co-editor of History and Historiography of Post-Mongol Central Asia and the Middle East: Studies in Honor of John E. Woods (2006).

Anne F. Broadbridge is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and Director of Middle Eastern Studies in the Department of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies. Her most recent book was Women and the Making of the Mongol Empire (Cambridge, 2018), preceded by Kingship and Ideology in the Islamic and Mongol Worlds (Cambridge, 2008), as well as articles on a range of subjects. She has taught approximately 3,000 students so far at UMass, and looks forward to teaching more.

Patrick Wing was a student of John Woods from 1999 to 2007. He is the author of The Jalayirids: Dynastic State Formation in the Mongol Middle East (Edinburgh University Press, 2016). His current research focuses on the Mamluk Sultanate. He is Professor of History at the University of Redlands in California.

Warren C. Schultz received his Ph.D. in Islamic History from the University of Chicago in 1995. He is a professor in the History Department at DePaul University, where he also serves as Chair. He is the author of numerous chapters and articles about the monetary and economic history of the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt and Syria (1250-1517) specifically and in the Islamic Middle Period (c. 1000-1500) in general. PDFs of his publications are available at academia.edu. 

Carol Fan is a teaching fellow at the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. Her research interests include Central Asian and Mongol history, Islamicate history of the middle periods, and cultural and economic exchanges across Eurasia.