“Rethinking history” engages the field of Mongol-era cultural history by revealing changing ideas about the Mongols among Persian historians. It adds to scholarship on Persian historiography through original research into texts from a pivotal moment in the development of that genre. Through its innovative use of unique manuscripts of historical texts, it expands the field of manuscript studies. It capitalizes on the subjective nature of historical chronicles to understand how individual authors’ perceptions of Mongol sovereignty changed over time.The post-modern recognition that texts reflect their authors’ political and mental circumstances has allowed historians to use discrepancies between sources to compare their authors’ personal perspectives. However, studies of individual works too often assume the existence of a single original text. It is hypothesized that variants of a text found in surviving manuscript copies might offer insight into the author’s evolving thoughts about the role of the Mongols in history. This project examines three historical chronicles where variations were introduced in the period immediately after they were first written to track the gradual acculturation of the Mongols through the works written by their Persian subjects.
For each of the texts chosen for study, manuscript copies will be compared to determine the significance and order of their variants. A system for tracking variants across manuscripts and sorting these into a schema of textual change over time was developed in a previous study of a separate historical chronicle. The methods developed ad hoc for that project can be refined and applied systematically across texts, allowing them to be integrated into a general study of authorial process in Mongol Iran.
This project allows individual texts to illustrate historical change over time. Modern scholarship is premised on the stability of print publication. However, textual instability is a factor of any non-print culture, including pre-modern Persian historical writing. Rather than try to eliminate that instability, this project highlights it to advance our understanding of the author and his surroundings.