Libraries, books, and transmission of knowledge in Ilkhanid Baghdad

Michal Biran*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The destruction of the Baghdadi libraries has been a powerful image connected to the Mongol conquest of 1258, often claimed to have precipitated the decline of Muslim civilization. This study, however, challenges this claim by reconstructing the state of libraries in Ilkhanid Baghdad, revealing a thriving intellectual community. Based on a close reading in Arabic biographical dictionaries and analysis of samā and book lists, it elucidates the functions of libraries in Ilkhanid Baghdad, identifies channels of knowledge transmission, and offers a glimpse of the libraries' holdings. Finally, it analyzes the Mongols' role in invigorating local scholarship and the impact their rule had on Baghdad's intellectual life.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)464-502
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2019


  • Baghdad
  • Ilkhanate
  • Intellectual history of the islamicate World
  • Libraries
  • Mongols in the Muslim world


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