Rethinking History: Returning to Archives and Documents: The Village and the Archive: Documents in Iranian Languages, 11th-13th century


Dr Arezou Azad


July 20, 2023

Abstract:This session will look at the complex, social interactions in parts of modern Afghanistan from the 11th to the 13th century. This is an area of multiple entanglements, linguistic, religious, political, and social. The Invisible East programme, based at the University of Oxford, has been using hitherto unpublished documents from the Bamiyan area made publicly available only in the last decade, to provide a completely new discourse about the eastern Islamicate and Iranian worlds using, not high status chronicles as has previously been done, but primary source documentation of landholdings, taxation, family relationships, and economic affairs. This session will illustrate the workings and methods of the programme and introduce a whole new body of original source material.


Dr. Arezou Azad is a historian of the medieval Islamicate East from the coming of Islam in the 7th century CE to the Mongol Empire of the 13th century, and all its various component cultures and societies. Her first book entitled Sacred Landscape of Medieval Afghanistan (Oxford, 2013) explores the ways in which the multicultural region of Balkh in Afghanistan, which hosted one of the most magnificant Buddhist monasteries and temples in antiquity, became “the dome of Islam.” Her most recent co-authored book is Faḍāʾil-i Balkh: Annotated translation with commentary and introduction of the oldest surviving history of Balkh in Afghanistan (Gibb Memorial Trust/Oxbow/Casemate, 2021). Dr. Azad leads the Invisible East programme at the University of Oxford which includes two team-focussed projects, the PersDoc project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Go.Local project funded by the European Research Council involving the study of documents, literary sources and material culture from medieval Afghanistan and Central Asia. She received her DPhil (doctorate) at Oxford’s Oriental Institute, after which she co-directed the Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust 2011-2015.