Based upon an analysis of the so-called Mahdi A manuscript of Alf Layla wa Layla—preserved in the Bibliotheque Nationale—and the wider context of Mamluk numismatic history, Schultz explores what this version of the famous collection of stories can tell us about coinage in the Mamluk Sultanate. He first revisits the debate over the date of this manuscript’s transcription. While Muhsin Mahdi concluded that this manuscript was transcribed in eighth/fourteenth century, Heinz Grotzfeld argued that the manuscript was a ninth/fifteenth century product. Grotzfeld based his conclusion on the basis of the mention in the manuscript of gold coins known as “ashrafī ” dinars, and he identified these coins as those dinars struck in 829/1425 during the reign of sultan al-Ashraf Barsbāy. Schultz demonstrates how the numismatic evidence overwhelming supports the later date, while also allowing for a date of transcription slightly earlier than the mid-century date favored by Grotzfeld. The second part of the essay gives multiple examples of how the language of money and commercial transactions found in several stories help corroborate other interpretations of monetary circulation in medieval Egypt and Syria.
Warren C. Schultz (Ph.D., Islamic History, University of Chicago) is a professor of Islamic and Middle Eastern History at DePaul University in Chicago, IL, where he serves as an Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. He is also a Fellow of the American Numismatic Society. Schultz is the author of many articles and chapters on the monetary history of the medieval Islamic world in general, and the Mamluk Sultanate in particular. He has served as a numismatic consultant for several archaeological excavations, and is currently studying archaeologically-found coins from the Mamluk provinces of southern Bilād al-Shām. His interest in the Mamluks was sparked by a graduate course in 1986 taught by Carl Petry, a seminar which set in motion the creation of the Mamluk Bibliography Project and eventually the journal Mamluk Studies Review.