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4. The Bureaucracy

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Chapter Summary

While the ethos of scribes and the criteria of administrative procedure can easily be reconstructed from the sources, the day-to-day routine of the bureaucracy is much more difficult to grasp. The administrative literature comprises treatises, manuals and expos?s generally written for and by scribes. These texts lay down codes for the ideal bureaucrat and guidelines for a smooth administrative machine. In their descriptions of the vicissitudes of various individuals working within the Abbasid administration, the authors of the chronicles and anthologies provide examples of both incompetent and competent scribes, which, at face value, seem to be based upon genuine observations of historical figures. These texts often formulate the lives and careers of scribes in the form of clich?s to be understood as positive and negative examples of secretaryship. The historical and the administrative texts still contain a wealth of information on the functioning of the bureaucracy under the caliph al-Muqtadir.

Keywords:Abbasid administration; administrative literature; al-Muqtadir; bureaucracy; caliph; scribes

10.1163/9789004252707_006
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