Islamic Gunpowder Empires Summary

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Islamic Gunpowder Empires: Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals is an attempt by Douglas E. Streusland to present the similarities and difference between the Ottoman, Safavid, and Mughal Empires that stretched across the Middle East. The book focuses on political, military, and economic history rather than on the social, cultural, and intellectual history. Even though Streusland has extensive knowledge and understanding of the Mughal Empire, he still has several observations that make the book a valuable read for anyone studying the history of the Middle East.
The book begins with a brief history about the formation of the Islamic culture up until the beginning of the Gunpowder Empires. He does this to show the similarity of a Turko-Persian background
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Although the book describes all of these sections fairly well, Streusland admits in his introduction that he does not cover social, cultural, and intellectual history as well as he could but focuses much more on political, economic, and military history. He compares the administration of these empires excellently when he first states that the Ottomans’ success was rooted on the stability provided by both the creation of detailed records of Ottoman lands by the central government and the established connections of sipahi cavalrymen to their districts (pp. 99-103). Later Streusland compares the Safavids to the Ottomans by explaining that the Safavids tried to create a replication of the Ottoman system in the form of khass provinces that took money from the Safavids’ tribal groups and placed them in the hands of imperial officials. The Safavids system did not work nearly as well as the Ottomans’ because it suffered from sloppiness and a lack of detailed revenue surveys similar to the Ottoman ones (pp. 181-182). He then compares the Mughal Empire to the other two when he mentions that the
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