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New Medieval Books: Medieval Muslim Mirrors for Princes

Medieval Muslim Mirrors for Princes: An Anthology of Arabic, Persian and Turkish Political Advice

By Louise Marlow

Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 978-1-108-44292-3

You can read from nine texts from the medieval Islamic world that fall into the genre ‘Mirrors for Princes’ – political advice for a ruler. Many are translated for the first time, and give their views on topics such as the Nature of Sovereignty, the King’s Character, Royal Authority, and Good Governance.


The examples of political advice contained in this anthology, written across terrain that stretched from Egypt to Central Asia, date from the first half of the tenth century to the first half of the twelfth century, a period that corresponds roughly to Hodgson’s Islamic Early Middle Period (c.945-1250). Several factors contributed to the texts’ selection. Firstly, limiting the examples to texts composed in the Early Middle Period highlights the writers’ perceptions and responses to the times in which they lived – a relatively contained period which nevertheless saw significant change. Secondly, it was during this period, as noted in Chapter 1, that the single-authored, thematically subdivided mirror-book emerged, and, since no prevailing set of expectations had yet become established, the mirrors of the Early Middle Period are often compositions of striking interest and individuality. Thirdly, the period’s mirrors include several of the most celebrated examples of the entire Arabic, Persian and Turkish corpora of political advice.


Who is this book for?

This book is part of the series ‘Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought’ – not necessarily marketed to medievalists. However, it has much to offer those who are interested in medieval political theory, either within the Islamic world or in comparison with thinkers from other cultures, such as Christine de Pizan and Niccolò Machiavelli. It can also help historians look at reactions to political developments that took place in the Middle Ages.

The author:

Louise Marlow is Professor of Religion at Wellesley University, where her research focuses on the ‘mirrors for princes’ genre in the Islamic world. Click here to view her university webpage.


You can read her article, “Royal Power and Its Regulations: Narratives of Hārūn al-Rashīd in Three Mirrors for Princes.

You can learn more about this book from the publisher’s website

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