Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg





Rāḍī al-Dīn al-Ghazzī’s Jāmi‘ farā’id al-milāḥa fī jawāmi‘ fawā’id al-filāḥa: the Last Mamluk Book on Farming and its Context

Mamluk and Ottoman intellectual discourse is often regarded as if it unfolded in an ivory tower separate from spatial, environmental, economic, and social realities. Books on farming, however, tell a different story. Because of their inherent connection to the most literally down-to-earth of human activities—the growing of food and medicines—they form an especially “materialistic” genre, even if many Mamluk and Ottoman farming manuals drew much of their own material from a rich older body of Arabic and even ancient literature. In my research, I have shown an increase beginning in the late 1400s in the copying, translation, circulation and authoring farming manuals. This was related to major changes in land regimes and farming practices then occurring in the eastern Mediterranean.

During my postdoctoral fellowship at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg, I will focus on a single, little studied work and its extant manuscripts: Rāḍī al-Dīn al-Ghazzī’s Jāmi‘ farā’id al-milāḥa fī jawāmi‘ fawā’id al-filāḥa (Complete Rules for Elegance in all the Uses of Farming), the last book on farming written during Mamluk rule. Through preliminary research, I have already determined that this work was written in Cairo in 1510-11. I now wish to study it in connection with several themes and questions. Why did a new book on farming appear at this moment, despite the wealth of available Mamluk books on the subject? How was “farming” understood and defined and what was its relationship to other fields like medicine and botany? How and where was al-Ghazzī’s work copied and how did it move through space? How and where was agriculture practiced in and around Cairo in 1500? To what extent were al-Ghazzī and his early readers connected to agriculture? I will closely study the available manuscripts, paying attention to marginal and ownership notes that can show the location and social status of its early readers. I will try to illuminate the intricate links and networks that connected these manuscripts to the spaces where agriculture was practiced, and the people who practiced it. At the same time, I will remain attuned to the disjunctions between embodied and epistemological forms of knowledge about farming.