The Savafid dynasty represented, in political, cultural and economic terms the pinnacle of Iran's power and influence in its early modern history. The evidence for this -the creation of a nation state, military expansion and success, economic dynamism and the exquisite art and architecture of the period - is well-known. What is less understood is the extent to which the Safavid success depended on - and was a product of - a class of elite originating from outside Iran: the slaves of Caucasian descent and the Armenian merchants of New Julfa in the city of Isfahan. It was these groups, bolstered by Shah Abbas the Great (1589 - 1629) and his successors, who became the pillars of Safavid political, economic and cultural life. This book describes how these elites, following their conversion to Islam, helped to form a new language of Savafid absolutism. It documents their contributions, financed by the Armenian trade in Safavid silk, to the transformation of Isfahan's urban, artistic and social landscape.
The insights provided here into the multi-faceted roles of the Safavid royal household offer an original and comprehensive study of slave elites in imperial systems common to the political economies of the Malmuk, Ottoman and Safavid courts as well as contributing to the earlier Abbasid, Ghaznavid and Saljuq eras. As such this book makes an original and important contribution to our understanding of the history of the Islamic world from the 16th to the 18th centuries and will prove invaluable for students and scholars of the period.
Sussan Babaie is the Assistant Professor of Islamic Art History and Kathryn Babayan is the Assistant Professor of Iranian History and Culture, both at the University of Michigan. Ina Baghdiantz-McCabe is the Assistant Professor of Armenian History at Tufts University. Massumeh Farhad is the Associate Curator of Islamic Art, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Washington D.C.