On Sept. 20, Stefan Kamola, assistant professor of history, opened the Fall 2017 Faculty Scholars Forum with a talk titled “After the Apocalypse: The Mongols, the End of Time, and the Birth of Iran.”
Kamola introduced some of the ways that the Mongol invasion of the Middle East in the 13th century helped lay the groundwork for the emergence of the modern politico-cultural region we know as Iran. Iran has a long historical legacy reaching far back into antiquity, but Iranian identity, including language and political culture, had laid dormant for several centuries after the rise of Islam. When the Mongols arrived, they hired local administrators to manage their state, and those administrators needed to find a way to explain the new pagan rulers in terms that were at least vaguely familiar to the population. They turned to aspects of the Iranian tradition to do so. Meanwhile, the end of the caliphate made space for Shi`ism to develop as a theology and a political philosophy. Nearly two centuries passed before anything emerged that looked like modern Iran, but the Mongol intervention helped set the course for that development.