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Tweeting Historians
Thanks for all your comments and questions! Let’s go through some of them. —
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
The best comparison isn’t between slave soldiers and peasants, but slave soldiers and feudal lords. In the West, lords were both local governors and soldiers. That pattern was very un-Abbasid: Early Islam had a centralised state with a standing army.
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Slave soldiers go by different names over the centuries. Ghulām means ‘boy’, mamlūk means ’owned’ yeniçeri (janissary) means ‘new soldier’… They’re all part of the same basic institution.
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Some modern thinkers have argued that Islam was always intended to abolish slavery. Medieval thinkers never thought that way. Slavery was a fact of life, to be regulated like anything else.
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
A great example of slave-soldiery in high politics.
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
I have no idea, but if people would like to share some later examples of slave soldiers murdering their masters, that’d be great.
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
We can still do political history without that perspective, but you’re right: there’s a lot we don’t understand. Matthew Gordon has argued that some so-called slave soldiers were never even enslaved; they were free aristocrats who enlisted voluntarily.
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Very good example of the problem. The (Arabic and Persian) sources do tend to call them “Turks”, but the ethnicity of particular individuals, what languages they spoke etc., are a matter of debate. We may never know.
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
Yes, Northern India mustn’t be excluded. It may be considered ‘Middle Eastern’ for the timeframe; other historians like to talk about the ‘Balkans-to-Bengal’ region. Historical geography is so elastic! Thanks for drawing attention to this.
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
In a word, modernity. Capitalism was robust enough to pay for regular armies. Nationhood made military service more attractive. Liberal democracy became hostile to slavery. Rational theories of government opposed corruption and special privileges.
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Tweeting Historians Nov 14
Replying to @iandavidmorris
(cont.) The Ottoman Empire knew it was falling behind the Western powers, so it made sweeping reforms to ‘modernise’ in the 19th century. Slave soldiery was among the casualties.
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