Premodern Agricultural Knowledge in New Persian
How, in what fields, and by which authority do premodern New Persian agricultural texts stake claims to contain knowledge? How does evidence in manuscripts from 1300–1600 CE support or challenge modern constructions of a stable tradition of Persian agriculture?
Addressing these questions, Riaz Howey’s dissertation project begins with a reading of the ās̱ār va aḥyā, or Traditions and the Living, a partially surviving text attributed to the ideologue of Ilkhanid agicultural revival, Rashīd al-Dīn Fażlullāh Hamadānī (1247–1318), which contrasts the possible sources of agricultural knowledge it collects. The project then expands to agricultural manuals—and sections on agriculture from other genres—within a temporally and linguistically wider corpus to better understand prevalent epistemic values through how authors, readers, translators and copyists situated their textual practices.
Riaz is particularly interested in the social and material conditions under which literate agricultural knowledge was performed and reproduced. The project engages with the history of science in Islamicate societies, in Persian-language sources and in the Mongol Empire.
Riaz Howey completed an MA in global history at the Freie Universität Berlin in 2020. At the MPIWG, he is currently also a predoctoral fellow in the Department III working group “Agriculture and the Making of the Sciences.” He is enrolled as a doctoral student at the University of Bonn at the chair of Prof. Dr. Judith Pfeiffer.
Image 1: Detail (f.92v) from an illustrated fourteenth century copy of Bīrūnī’s Arabic Chronology of Ancient Nations showing the prophet Bihāfarīd with a man using a spade (© The University of Edinburgh.).
Image 2: Fragment of a page (mounted with F1937.39) showing the end of the mulberry section and beginning of the olive section in an illustrated copy of the Persian Nuzhatnāmih-yi ‘alāyī (The Book of Counsel of ‘Alā) of Shahmardān Ibn Abī al-Kheir Rāzī (© Shahmardān Ibn Abī al-Kheir Rāzī, Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, https://asia.si.edu/object/F1937.38/.).
Image 3: Fragment of a page (mounted with F1937.38) showing an illustration of an apple tree with two poppy plants with an instruction for a preparation from an illustrated copy of the Persian Nuzhatnāmih-yi ‘alāyī (The Book of Counsel of ‘Alā) of Shahmardān Ibn Abī al-Kheir Rāzī (© Shahmardān Ibn Abī al-Kheir Rāzī, Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, https://asia.si.edu/object/F1937.39/.).