Abstract Prof. Dr. Michael Lecker
“ADMINISTRATIVE STRUCTURES, CONCEPTS, APPROACHES, AND COMPARISONS”
Nov. 27-29, 2014, Universität Hamburg
“An Empire Built on Individuals and their Networks - Prosopography at Work”
Thirty years ago I wanted to write down every fact or “factoid” found in the primary sources which is relevant to the pre- and early Islamic history. The literature led quite logically to the creation of prosopographies because of its strong emphasis on individuals. Many keywords allow researchers to conduct different types of studies based on the same data.
The study of early Islamic history and historiography has taken a sad course in recent decades, when brilliant scholars not only pointed out the weaknesses of the literature – which in itself is most welcome – but also suggested scenarios that lack textual evidence. The course seems to be changing now with the advent of a new generation of scholars who are not satisfied with these scenarios and focus on well-defined topics. Indeed there is great promise in the literature, especially since technology makes the primary sources more accessible than ever before. The premises for a major breakthrough in the study of Islamic history are here.
The medieval history books are rather limited, but Islamic literature at large is “democratic” and allows us to follow many individuals in different levels of detail. Systematic studies of groups, e.g. lineage groups, make it possible to reconstruct “the real story” behind the scene.
For example, by following a family from the Sulaym tribe we come closer to the history of Muhammad and indeed the first century of Islam in general.
You may wish to look at Michael Ebstein’s article (based on his MA thesis) in al-Qantara:
The JPP database is limited and suffers from major deficiencies. Still it is partly available at http://micro5.mscc.huji.ac.il:81/JPP/v3