Fatimid historiography and its survival. A case study of the vizierate of al-Yāzūrī (r. 442-450/1050-1058)

Mathew Barber


Studies of Fatimid history often take the testimony of later historians like al-Maqrīzī (d. 845/1442) for granted. This thesis will look closely at how later historians used sources and what this can teach us about Fatimid historiography, taking the vizierate of al-Yāzūrī (r. 442/1050-450/1058) as a case study. It is well known that very few works of Fatimid history survive, and this is especially the case for al-Yāz¬¬ūrī’s vizierate. However, fragments of contemporary histories survive in later sources, most crucially histories written in Egypt. This thesis will argue that al-Yāzūrī’s vizierate presents an ideal vantage point for the study of Fatimid historiography and for understanding its survival in later texts. During al-Yāzūrī’s vizierate the Fatimid Imamate based in Cairo almost lost control of its possessions in North Africa, while it began to expand its influence into Yemen and undertook a conquest to occupy Baghdad. Al-Yāzūrī was dismissed and executed in part because of his handling of the Baghdad campaign, and (as has been asserted in studies of his vizierate) this has fundamentally shaped the historiography of his reign. The thesis will build on existing research to argue that there are at least two types of historiography for al-Yāzūrī’s vizierate that survive in the later texts: biography (in the form of a biography of al-Yāzūrī) and annals. Through three case studies (the campaign to capture Baghdad, Fatimid exchange with the Byzantines, and Fatimid influence in Yemen), the thesis will explain how these two types of source differ, the agendas of their authors and the manner of their composition. It is hoped that this will serve to help scholars understand both the sources that use these histories and the histories themselves. Moreover, it is hoped that knowing more about these two source types, their agendas and the manner of their composition will provide a framework for a further critical study of al-Yāzūrī’s vizierate.