Remembering Saladin: The Crusades and the Politics of Heresy in Persian Historiography

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In this study I examine the presentation of Saladin and the Crusades within the genre of Persian universal histories produced from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. While a number of recent studies have begun to explore the place of the Crusades in the historical memory of the Islamic world, to date little attention has been given to the question of the manner in which the ensuing Mongol conquests affected subsequent Muslim memory of the Crusades. In this article I argue that historiographers of the Mongol and post-Mongol eras largely sought to legitimate the conquests through evocation of heresy and by celebrating the Mongols’ role in combating alleged heretical elements within Muslim society, most notably the Ismāʿīlīs. While Saladin is universally remembered today first and foremost for his re-conquest of Jerusalem from the Crusaders, within the context of the agenda of Persian historiography of the post-Mongol era the locus of his significance was shifted to his overthrow of the Ismāʿīlī Fatimid dynasty in Egypt, to the almost complete exclusion of his role in the Crusades. This article challenges long-standing assumptions that the figure of Saladin was largely forgotten within the Muslim world until the colonial era, and instead presents an alternative explanation for the supposed amnesia in the Muslim world regarding the Crusades in the pre-modern era.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-23
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Nov 9 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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