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Abstract

The life trajectory of Ibn Taghrībirdī and his career has stirred considerable curiosity and interest among medieval historians and modern researchers. Through their biographical depictions and pointed analysis, they all endeavor to construct a comprehensive rendering of his various historiographical undertakings. Only a few decades after his death in 874/1470, a number of medieval historians began to trace his life-story and career, including al-Sakhāwī (830–902/1427–97) and al-Ṣayrafī (819–900/1416–95), who shed a critical light on his works. The subsequent generation of sixteenth-century historians, showed a more positive assessment of his achievement in the field. Under the pen of Ibn al-ʿImād al-Ḥanbalī, Ibn Taghrībirdī appears as one of the greatest historians of his time. Later, the 1792 publication of a first edition of his Mawrid al-Laṭāfah sparked renewed interest in him and his other works came to the attention of European scholarship through annotated editions and translations. To better ascertain the value of his historiographical works, several attempts to contextualize his writings were made in the twentieth century. Despite decades of extensive research on Ibn Taghrībirdī, few studies have evolved beyond treating his historiographical works as mere “containers of facts” or contextualizing the man and his oeuvre against a complex socio-political background. We are left with a wide-open lane for inquiry to bring a new impetus to his life-story and achievements in historical writing. To help plot a new way forward, the current article will question “dominant narratives” related to Ibn Taghrībirdī’s life and historiographical contributions. What we mean by “dominant narratives” in this context is the bulk of medieval, stereotyped representations and the modern assumptions that engage with his individual trajectory and career, and in which he was regarded as a member of the awlād al-nās or else as a semi-official court historian.

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