The Persianate World: What Is It? How Did It Appear? Why Did It Collapse?


Fri, 02/04/2022 - 3:00pm


Part of the Spring 2022 Middle Eastern and North African Studies Colloquium Series

Richard M. Eaton, Professor of History, University of Arizona

Richard Eaton headshot

The Persianate world refers to the vast territory between the Balkans and Bengal in which, for a thousand years, an integrated sense of moral, social, political, and aesthetic order was informed by the circulation of normative Persian texts. By the tenth century modern Persian had become a transregional, literary medium as regional courts in Khurasan and Central Asia patronized Persian literature and used the language in their bureaucracies, building on a tradition of professional writers that had served Persian empires for centuries. The new technology of paper-making facilitated the rapid movement of Persian texts across space, while Firdausi’s epic Shah-nama (1010) celebrated Iranian mythology and pre-Islamic history in ways that connected widely scattered peoples of different ethnicities. Territorial conquests by Persianized Turks, followed by Mongol invasions that drove peoples of Central Asia and Khurasan into new lands, also served to expand the geographical extent of the Persianate world. By the 14th c., widely scattered peoples of diverse ethnicities and religions had absorbed the political, aesthetic, and moral order elaborated in a growing Persian canon. With the translation of a rich store of romance literature into vernacular tongues, the Persianate world became as much a subjective phenomenon, inhabiting people’s collective imagination, as it was an objective, mappable zone in which texts circulated along networks that connected royal courts, provincial notables, Sufi lodges, merchant communities, and schools.


After graduating from the College of Wooster, Richard Eaton lived in Tabriz for two years as part of the first group of American Peace Corps volunteers to Iran. While there he became fascinated with the historical connections between South Asia and the Iranian plateau, Islam and Indian religions, and Persianate and Indic civilizations from roughly 1000 to 1800. His published monographs include Sufis of Bijapur: Social Roles of Sufis in Medieval India (Princeton, 1978); The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204 1760 (California, 1993); Social History of the Deccan, 1300 1761: Eight Indian Lives (Cambridge, 2005); and Power, Memory, Architecture: Contested Sites on India’s Deccan Plateau, 1300-1600 (Oxford, 2014). The analytical tools used in these four monographs include, respectively, Weberian social thought, Annales School methodology, biography, and architecture. In 2020 Penguin Books, London, published his India in the Persianate Age, 1000-1765, a survey of precolonial Indian history.


Hi there, 
You are invited to a Zoom meeting. 
When: Feb 4, 2022 03:00 PM Arizona 
Register in advance for this meeting:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

To request disability-related accommodations that would ensure your full participation in this event, please contact: