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Islamic Pharmacy in the Mamlūk and Mongol Realms: Theory and Practice

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This article will discuss aspects of pharmacy in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries CE, when the central Islamic lands—which also form a central part of the Silk Road between China and Europe—were dominated by the Mamlūk Empire in Egypt and Syria, and the Mongol Īl-khāns in Iran. Exchanges of practical and theoretical knowledge occurred across the hostile frontier, but it remains to be seen to what extent this affected the practice of community pharmacists in the Islamic world, let alone the theory used by doctors learned in the Arabic pharmacological tradition. As I have only very recently begun to study the Mongol side of things in greater depth, this article will be weighted towards the Mamlūks, and I will point out areas that require further research before any definite conclusion can be reached. I will begin by discussing the state of pharmacy in Mamlūk Egypt, continue to say a few words about the developments in pharmacology caused by the establishment of the Mongol Empire, and finally, discuss the status of pharmacists in hospitals under the Mongols and Mamlūks.


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