About the Project

The project aims to make a major contribution to the knowledge and understanding of pre-modern rural societies in the Islamic world.  It offers a translation and study of the ‘History of the Fayyum’, a unique and unparalleled tax register from a 13th-century Egyptian province, and the most detailed tax survey to have survived from any region of the medieval Islamic world.  

The detailed tax survey, covering about 200 fiscal, agricultural and demographic categories for about 130 villages, is a rare window into the history of the medieval Middle Eastern countryside, the Islamization of rural communities, their tribal and sedentary identity, and their relations with land holders and with state officials.

This website offers the tools for a micro-study of the social, economic and demographic realities of the medieval Fayyum. It contains an expansive database that brings together the entire fiscal, demographic and geographic information contained in the ‘History of the Fayyum’. We aim to provide researchers in a variety of disciplines (History, Archaeology, Economics, and Geography) with direct access to the data.  We hope that the use of this database will break new ground in the social and economic history of Egypt in particular, and the medieval Islamic world in general.

We also present here historical and geographical information about the Fayyum; about the work and its author; extracts from the English translation of the work along with the Arabic original; and the database.  The database is presented as several excel spreadsheets, accompanied by explanatory notes, and GIS generated maps. A selected bibliography and links provide further information.

About the Researchers

Dr. Yossef Rapoport, Principal Investigator

Yossi Rapoport is a lecturer in the School of History at Queen Mary University of London, specializing in Islamic social and legal history. He received his PhD from Princeton University, and then moved to Oxford, where he participated in the Medieval Views of the Cosmos Project, dedicated to the study of a unique eleventh-century Arabic cosmographical manuscript in the Bodleian Library. He then held the Mellon Career Development Fellowship in Arabic in association with Pembroke College, Oxford, before coming to Queen Mary in 2007. His publications include Marriage, Money and Divorce in medieval Islamic Society (2005), and Ibn Taymiyya and His Times (2010, co-edited with Shahab Ahmed).

For further information see: www.history.qmul.ac.uk/staff/rapoporty.html

Contact details: 
email: y.rapoport@qmul.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7882 8362

Dr. Ido Shahar, Post Doctoral Research Assistant

Ido Shahar received his MA from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University and his PhD from the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben Gurion University. His PhD dissertation examined shari'a courts in Israel from both ethnographic and socio-historical perspectives, and led to several publications. As a Post Doctoral Fellow at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University, he continued to develop his research as a legal anthropologist of Muslim societies as well as his interest in combining historical and social scientific research methods. He then moved to the UK, where he had been a Research Associate at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford, before joining this project.   

For further information, see Ido Shahar's CV

Contact details: 
email: i.shahar@qmul.ac.uk


This project has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

We would like to acknowledge the generous advice and support we have received from scholars of the Fayyum in different periods, and in particular James Keenan, Mohamed Kenawi, Alan Mikhail, David  Price and Dominic Rathbone, as well as Luke Yarbrough.  David Wengrow gave us an opportunity to present our research at the Institute of Archaeology at UCL in March 2011.

We would also like to thank Dan Burt (Sunnymedia UK) and Adi Keinan for providing technical support in creating the database and producing the GIS maps. Nabih Bashir provided us with a digital version of the Arabic text.

At Queen Mary, we received generous academic and administrative support from, among others, Jim Bolton, Caroline Bowden, Colin Jones and Virginia Davis. 

Finally, we would like to thank the 13th-century Ayyubid bureaucrat Abu ʿUthmān al-Nābulusī for preparing such a meticulous tax register.     

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