Urban agency and the city notables of mediaeval Anatolia

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Scholarship on the city in the Islamic world has generally played down the autonomy and collective agency of cities. This article explores the case of Anatolia, usually neglected in discussions of Islamic urbanism, focusing on the Seljuq period of the 13th century. While much scholarship on Anatolia acknowledges the role of futuwwa (trade-based confraternities somewhat analogous to guilds), I argue the independence of these organisations has been overestimated, for many were closely linked to sultanic power. The paper suggests that in fact power was negotiated between rulers and urban notables (a‘yān), who had considerable autonomy and who brokered binding contracts (sawgandnāmas) with sultans that expressed their rights and obligations. A‘yān played a crucial role in decisions such as the surrender of their cities to conquerors and in negotiating terms, a role for which analogies can be identified elsewhere in the Middle East. Finally, the article makes some preliminary suggestions as to the identities of these a‘yān.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-34
JournalMedieval Worlds. Comparative and Interdisciplinary Studies
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2021


  • Anatolia
  • Seljuk
  • Urbanism
  • Notables


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