The Evolution of Islamic Societies (c.600-1600 CE): Algorithmic Analysis into Social History
In the first millennium of its history (c. 600-1600 CE), Islamic society evolved from a simple tribal entity into a multifaceted social, cultural, and political entity that stretched from Spain and North Africa to Central Asia and India. Arab chronicles and biographical collections preserve a wealth of information about long-term environmental and social processes that shaped Islamic society over this period. These numerous and extensive texts constitute a very rich "treasure trove" of information about the period before the 15th century, for which very few documents and archives exist. The Emmy Noether Project (ENP), in an innovative study of "The Evolution of Islamic Societies (ca. 600-1600 AD)," will algorithmically examine these historical texts, which for the first time are treated holistically as a unified corpus of historical information (ca. 300 titles, 100 million words; ca. 400,000 biographical records). The ENP team, consisting of the PI and two PhD students, will identify and analyze long-term historical trends in three closely related subprojects. The first subproject will examine ethnic, religious, and occupational groups for how they shaped the development of local communities and coalesced into what we call the "Islamic world." The second will explore dynastic cycles through the rise and fall of regional powers, their conflicts and interactions. The third subproject will analyze environmental factors-plagues, famines, droughts, pest infestations, earthquakes, and climate change-and their impact on the lives of local communities. All subprojects complement each other and form the basis for a synthesis of the development of the Islamic world during this period by the PI.
Conditioned by the volume and complexity of the material, the ENP will employ a range of digital textual analysis and modeling methods developed in recent years in the digital humanities to effectively and reproducibly analyze medieval Arabic historical sources. The proposed methodological approach is key to discovering, evaluating, and modeling all relevant textual evidence on an unprecedented scale. In total, the ENP will produce six interrelated research publications: two dissertations; a methodological manual; a collection of articles; a Longue Durée Atlas of Islam; and the PI's monograph explaining the ENP's findings and innovative digital approach. In addition, an open and extensible online research environment, MasterChronicle, will be developed that will enable scholars to delve into the Arabic historical corpus through various forms of "close" and "distant reading."