Colloque “From Timur to Nadir Shah: Cultural Connections between Iran, India & Central Asia” — Pembroke College, Cambridge (Royaume-Uni), 15-17/12/2014

The British Institute of Persian Studies is pleased to announce its forthcoming conference “From Timur to Nadir Shah: Cultural Connections between Iran, India and Central Asia”, to be held at Pembroke College, Cambridge, 15-17 December 2014. The conference is organised by Professor Charles Melville under the auspices of the BIPS research programme “Empire and Authority in the Persianate world”.


The remarkable richness of Persian culture and its spread well beyond the current boundaries of Iran – into Anatolia, the Caucasus, Transoxania and India – is commonly acknowledged. That the courts of a succession of rulers of essentially Turkic origin, across a vast region of southwest Asia, corresponded in Persian, patronised Persian poets and artists, and adhered to concepts of sovereignty that largely conformed to Perso-Islamic models of kingship needs no particular emphasis; the evidence for it is as widespread as the phenomenon itself. The very scale of the interactions between these polities, however, and their cultural coherence, has made efforts to view them as a whole rather infrequent. Furthermore, while comparisons between the three ‘great’ Muslim empires of the ‘gunpowder’ age – the Ottomans, the Safavids and the Mughals – are relatively commonplace, comparisons and connections across the triangular and very ancient contact zone between the Iranian plateau, Transoxania and India are scattered and often relate to broad or indeterminate topics or periods.

One aim of the conference is therefore to bridge these gaps and bring together scholars working on different aspects of Persian, Indian and Central Asian history at a particular time. While some subjects, such as Indian miniature illustrations of Persian texts, have continually attracted attention, many areas of contact between these regions remain to be explored in more detail. The programme aims particularly to stimulate research on some of the concepts of authority expressed at the time: not only royal authority but also the – sometimes competing – religious authority of sufi shaikhs and the ‘ulama. Rather than the political history of the period, it will explore the reflection of imperial structures and a self-consciously imperial mindset in historiography, court poetry and the arts of the book, that is, often the product of patronage – but also, in the sufi context, the hagiographical literature surrounding individual saints or shrine centres.


The programme consists of 22 presentations spread over two and a half days. Registration, speakers, and their abstracts can be found online:

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