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Visualizing Persian History: The Illustration of Persian Manuscript Histories

#Visualizing Persian History: The Illustration of Persian Manuscript Histories

Visualizing Persian History: The Illustration of Persian Manuscript Histories

Paper by Charles Melville

Given at the University of Vienna on November 21, 2023

Abstract: How did medieval chroniclers writing in Persian narrate their past and present history and – the main focus of this paper – how were the historical events depicted in the manuscripts in which their work was written? The research presented here concerns the illustration of Persian chronicles in manuscripts produced between the thirteenth and the early nineteenth century, but the history they cover goes back to the earliest memories of the Iranian past, the Biblical prophets and rise of Islam, reflecting the formative role of religion in shaping political history. Over this long span of time, artists (and sometimes the historians themselves) chose some events to be illustrated and others not. These choices, explored here, must tell us something about the Iranians’ own view of the significant moments in their history and how it was perceived.

Charles Melville is Emeritus Professor of Persian History at the University of Cambridge.

Top Image: Depiction of Timur granting audience on the occasion of his accession, in the near contemporary Zafarnama, created in 1467 – Wikimedia Commons

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