Simin Abrahams. Historiographical study and annotated translation of volume 2 of the Afzal al-Tavarikh by Fazli Khuzani al-Isfahani. Dissertation (1999)

Title:Historiographical study and annotated translation of volume 2 of the Afzal al-Tavarikh by Fazil Khuzani al-Isfahani. Dissertation
Author:Simin Abrahams
Publisher:University of Edinburgh
File:PDF, 14.5 MB
Download:Click here

Simin Abrahams. Historiographical study and annotated translation of volume 2 of the Afżal al-Tavārīkh by Fażli Khūzānī al-Iṣfāhānī. Dissertation. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 279 p.

This thesis is based on the second volume of Afzal al-Tavarikh, the 17th century Safavid court chronicle. It consists of a historiographical study of this source and an annotated translation of the section concerning the early years of Shah Tahmasp’s reign (1524-1529). The author Fazl b. Zayn al-‘Abiom b. Rub Allah al-Khuzani al-Isfahani was writing his history in 1617-1639 during the reigns of Shah ‘Abbas I (r. 1587-1629) and Shah Safi (r. 1629-1642) and devoted the second volume entirely to the reign of Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-1576). Chapter one of the thesis deals with the author, his life and career as a provincial Vazir during the reign of Shah ‘Abbas, and his emigration to India. It identifies the formative influences which shaped the author’s distinctive view of history. One of Fazli’s strengths as a historian is his use of histories that are no longer extant. The sources have therefore been examined in order to assess the influence of these “lost histories” on his presentation of Shah Tahmasp’s early reign. Afzal al-Tavarikh contains transcriptions of more official documents than are found in any other Safavid court chronicle. The first chapter therefore underlines the importance of this source as a depository of chancery documents. The historiographical evaluation of Aftal proposes that this history is essentially a product of the reign of Shah I Abbas. It should be viewed as part of Shah ‘Abbas’ propaganda campaign, which aimed at strengthening the Safavid Shah’s claim to legitimacy. Chapter two is a critical evaluation of Afzal al-Tavirikh. This chapter examines some of the historiographical issues which were raised in chapter one, in greater depth. Three case studies have been presented in order to draw attention to the author’s tendency to suppress inconvenient truths and to determine the ideological basis which underpins the author’s historical interpretation. It also outlines how Fazli’s ideological bias determined the structure of his narrative and his literary style. Chapter three consists of the partial translation of the text followed by a commentary. The translation deals with the narrative of the first six years of Shah Tahmasp’s minority to the year 936/1529. Although the inter-tribal factionalism of the Qizilbash tribes continued to dominate the court politics, 936/1529 signified the first occasion when the young Shah Tahmasp succeeded in asserting greater personal political authority at court. This was made possible by the prestige he derived from his victory at the battle of Jam in 935/1528 against the Uzbeks. This allowed him to invite the Ustajlii uymaq back to court from exile in Gilan and thus destablise the hegemony hitherto exercised by their Qizilbash rivals- the Tekkelus. This consideration has determined the logical break in the narrative and the translation. The commentary consists of further historiographical notes, prosopography, and notes on geography.