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The Mamluk Sultanate as a Military Patronage State: Household Politics and the Case of the Qalāwūnid bayt (1279-1382)

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Abstract This article focuses on the conceptualisation of Mamluk socio-political organisation in late thirteenth and early to mid-fourteenth-century Egypt and Syria. Breaking free of the heuristic constraints imposed on Mamluk studies by the paradigm of the political elite as defined by the normative exclusivism of elite military slavery—the so-called Mamluk system—it demonstrates that apparent dynastic attitudes were no mere façade for that system but rather powerful representations of the Mamluk version of a long-standing regional tradition of socio-political organisation: the military patronage state. It is argued here that this tradition, with its focus on military leadership, patronage ties, household bonds, and unstable devolved authorities, coalesced between 1279 and 1382 in Qalāwūnid leadership over and monopolisation of Syro-Egyptian societies.


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