The Ph.D. Program in History

at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York


11/19 – Marina Rustow on “Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue”

Join us for a conversation with Marina Rustow and Arnold Franklin on Marina Rustow’s new book, The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Cairo Synagogue (Princeton University Press, 2020)

The lost archive of the Fatimid caliphate (909–1171) survived in an unexpected place: the storage room, or geniza, of a synagogue in Cairo, recycled as scrap paper and deposited there by medieval Jews. Marina Rustow tells the story of this extraordinary find, inviting us to reconsider the longstanding but mistaken consensus that before 1500 the dynasties of the Islamic Middle East produced few documents, and preserved even fewer. Tracing the complex routes by which Arabic documents made their way from Fatimid palace officials to Jewish scribes, the book provides a rare window onto a robust culture of documentation and archiving not only comparable to that of medieval Europe, but, in many cases, surpassing it.

Illustrated with stunning examples from the Cairo Geniza, this compelling book advances our understanding of documents as physical artifacts, showing how the records of the Fatimid caliphate, once recovered, deciphered, and studied, can help change our thinking about the medieval Islamicate world and about premodern polities more broadly.

Marina Rustow is the Khedouri A. Zilkha Professor of Jewish Civilization in the Near East and professor of Near Eastern studies and history at Princeton University. She is director of the Princeton Geniza Lab and a MacArthur fellow, and is the author of Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate.

Arnold Franklin is associate professor of History and the Director of the Jewish Studies Program at Queens College, CUNY. He specializes in medieval Jewish history, Jews in the Islamic world, and the Cairo Geniza. He is the author of This Noble House: Jewish Descendants of King David in the Islamic East.

Princeton University Press is pleased to offer 30% off The Lost Archive [] and free shipping through 12/31/20 with code TLAMR-FG


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