Not available in 2020/21
Islamic Empires, 1400 - 1800

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Gagan D. S. Sood. SAR 2.07


This course is available on the BA in History, BSc in Government and History, BSc in International Relations and History and BSc in Politics and History. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.



Course content

Following the transformations wrought by the Mongols in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires arose in India and the Islamic heartlands. These ‘Islamic’ empires would go on to rank among the wealthiest and most powerful regimes of the early modern world. Supported by an array of provincial and local elites, they were at the zenith of their power in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, spanning a region that extended from the Mediterranean to the Bay of Bengal, from Yemen to the Crimea. Their populations were producers, consumers, importers and exporters of goods critical for global trade; their location accorded them a vital role in the flow of ideas and information; there was a remarkable flowering of the arts in the period; and conversion to the region’s dominant religious tradition, Islam, continued apace, breaching new frontiers. By the eighteenth century, however, the Islamic empires were reduced to shadows of their former selves, with power monopolised by a kaleidoscope of smaller regimes vying with each other for supremacy. This struggle paved the way for the region’s later incorporation into Europe’s global empires of modern times, and the emergence of today’s Middle East and South Asia.

This course will examine the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires, and the larger world to which they belonged, from their formation in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries to the ‘unscripted possibilities’ of the eighteenth century. We will study the ways in which temporal power was institutionalised; the patterns of daily life found in urban and rural settings, as well as on the frontier; Islam in theory and in practice, and its relationship to the region’s other major religious traditions; diplomacy within and without the Islamic world; the prevailing techniques and technologies of warfare; inherited and collective knowledge of other lands, near and far, and the everyday movement of people, goods and news; the signal achievements in the literary, visual and architectural realms; secular changes to the region’s societies and economies; early modern millenarianism, fundamentalism and reformism; and the eighteenth-century demise of the Islamic empires, with the concomitant emergence of successor regimes that shaped the paths to modernity embarked upon within the region.


10 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT. 2 hours of classes in the ST.

In the ST, there will be a mock exam (1 hour) and revision class (1 hour). There will be a reading week in both MT and LT.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to submit two 2000-word essays (one in MT, one in LT), give an oral presentation in class, and sit a 1-hour mock exam in ST.

Indicative reading

Christopher A. Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914: Global Connections and Comparisons (Oxford, 2004)

Stephen F. Dale, The Muslim Empires of the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals (Cambridge, UK, 2010)

Joseph F. Fletcher, ‘Integrative history: Parallels and interconnections in the early modern period, 1500-1800’, Journal of Turkish Studies 9 (1985), 37-57

Colin Imber, The Ottoman Empire, 1300-1650: The Structure of Power (2nd edn, New York, 2009)

Ira M. Lapidus, ‘State and religion in Islamic societies’, Past & Present 151 (1996), 3-27

Rudi P. Matthee, Persia in Crisis: Safavid Decline and the Fall of Isfahan (London, 2012)

Donald Quataert, The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922 (Cambridge, UK, 2005)

David Morgan, Medieval Persia, 1040-1797 (London, 1988)

John F. Richards, The Mughal Empire (Cambridge, UK, 1993)

Francis Robinson, ‘Ottomans-Safavids-Mughals: Shared knowledge and connective systems’, Journal of Islamic Studies 8:2 (1997), 151-184

Gagan D. S. Sood, India and the Islamic Heartlands: An Eighteenth-Century World of Circulation and Exchange (Cambridge, UK, 2016)


Exam (100%, duration: 3 hours) in the summer exam period.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International History

Total students 2019/20: 12

Average class size 2019/20: 11

Capped 2019/20: Yes (30)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Specialist skills