This week: A programme that could not be more apt in the face of the expected (or feared) data edits by the new American ‘president’s’ administration. Yet information manipulation is nothing new, editing facts has been part of many a dictatorship’s tool in ‘pacifying’ a nation, and attempting to better their own image, or write certain peoples out of history.
So this week the second of a two-part series from the British Academy “The past as propaganda: The Mongol ‘World History’.
The British Academy which champions the humanities and social sciences and their role in national life, invited Professor Robert Hillenbrand FBA FRSE, to discuss the fragmentary copy of Rashid al-Din’s ‘World History’ made in Tabriz, North West Iran in 1314.
Held in the University of Edinburgh’s Library it is an extreme rarity, huge in size, it contains 70 fantastical and lavish illustrations making it the world’s most valuable illustrated Islamic manuscript in the world. The Mongol ruler of Iran ordered his vizier, a Jewish doctor who had converted to Islam, to write it. This lecture explores its art-historical significance, of this Arab, Western and Byzantine work, its multi-racial and multi-confessional flavour, with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist and shamanistic elements that aptly reflect the largest continuous land empire in world history that was the Mongols. The manuscript, Jami’ al-Tawarikh (the Compendium of Chronicles – a World History) by Rashid al Din is the principle surviving illustrated document of the largest continuous land empire that world has ever seen, stretching from East Germany to Korea, to the Baltic to the sea of Japan.
Featuring Biblical figures, the Prophet Muhammad and the mythical past of Greece, Arabia and Iran, the manuscript breaks new ground, while its propagandist intent is expressed in courtly and battle scenes galore.
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