Although David Ayalon (1914–98) is primarily known as a Mamlukist and many will consider him the father of Mamluk studies, he also turned his attention to other weighty matters in the study of Middle Eastern and Islamic history. Among these were the important relations between the Muslim dominated Middle East and the Eurasian Steppe, the original home of the nomadic Turks and Mongols. A related subject that Ayalon explored was the relations of the mostly Turkish Mamluks of Egypt and Syria with the Mongols. In the early 1970s he examined if Mongol law (Yasa) had been implemented in the Mamluk Sultanate, as claimed by some scholars. Ayalon’s conclusion was a resounding negative answer, but along the way, he opened up new vistas of source criticism, together with innovative ideas on both Mongol and Mamluk history.
Reuven Amitai is Eliyahu Elath Professor for Muslim History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, specializing in history of the late medieval Middle East and adjacent areas. From 2010 to 2014, he was dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the Hebrew University, and from 2014 to 2016, he was a senior fellow at the “Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg: History and Society during the Mamluk Era (1250–1517)” in Bonn. He has recently co-edited (with Christoph Cluse), Slavery and the Slave Trade in the Eastern Mediterranean, 11th to 15th Centuries, published in late 2017 by Brepols. His current research focuses on Palestine during the later Middle Ages.