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Empires and Emporia: Palace, Mosque, Market, and Tomb in Istanbul, Isfahan, Agra, and Delhi

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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

The association between empires and commercial institutions is a well-known feature of pre-industrial Muslim empires, such as the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires. Rulers constructed religious monuments and civic institutions that simultaneously functioned as commercial centers. The key to this symbiotic relationship is the institution of waqf, the so-called “charitable endowments” that supplied funds to support mosques, schools, baths and other religious institutions. The endowments largely drew their funds from shops, bazars or caravanserais usually built nearby. Therefore a great mosque or madrasa often became a commercial center. This situation was the conscious result of imperial commitment to stimulating the commercial exchange, which would supply and enrich these states.

Que les empires islamiques de l’ère pré-industrielles se sont associés aux institutions commerçiales est bien connu. Les empires ottoman, safavide et moghol en témoignent amplement. Les monuments religieux et les institutions civiles que leurs princes ont fait construire furet en même temps des centres de commerce. Cette relation symbiotique s’explique par l’institution de waqf, autrement dit ‘un leg pieux’. Les fonds de ces legs servaient à doter les mosques, les écoles, les bains et bien d’autres institutions religieuses. Les donations pieuses, elles, furent en grande partie léguées par des boutiques, des bazars, et des caravansérails aux alentours. Ainsi la grande mosquée, ou la médresse, se trouvait être doublée d’un centre de commerce. Voilà l’effet intentionel de l’engagement impérial qui visait à encourager les échanges commerçiaux. À leur tour ces échanges fournissaient des produits à ces états et les rendaient plus prospères.


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