xi. Economy from the Timurids until the 18th Century
The economy of Central Asia after the fall of Central Asia to the descendants of Čengīz Khan and during their rule was centered on agriculture, but with important contributions from pastoralism, especially the breeding and export of horses. The commercial infrastructure of Central Asian cities like Bukhara, Samarqand, Balḵ, and Kāšḡar supported and profited from trade in luxury goods and durable commodities. Exports included textiles, metals, paper, silk, and tobacco, but the main source of income and employment was agricultural production, whether for local, regional, or international markets. It is significant that productive agricultural land or related components such as water rights and water supplies were the principal objects of waqf endowments, which reflect contemporary attitudes as to what constituted wealth in this period (see, e.g., the waqf properties listed in Vyatkin; Chekhovich, 1974; Mukminova, 1966; Chekhovich and Vil’danova, pp. 213-25).
Water supply. The value of agricultural land depended on access to irrigation. Dry farming (lalmīkārī, Pers. deymīkārī) was widely practiced, but yield and land values were substantially less than on irrigated land. Even irrigated land was graded according to where it was situated on its canal (rūd, nahr, jūy, kām, afdaq; see, e.g., sales made in Bukhara in 14 Ḏu’l-qaʿda and 1 Ḏu’l-ḥejja 976/May 1569, where lands along a canal are mentioned as being choice, middling, or poor: ḵīār, wasaṭ, dūn; Bertels’, docs. 384, 385). Besides the canals, which channeled water to fields, irrigation networks included drainage ditches (zehkaš), which carried away runoff when fields were inundated by winter rains or when they were flooded to leach out excessive ground salts. Canals were also tied in to man-made ponds where reed (nay, kūm) was grown. Hence the construction and maintenance of irrigation systems were of prime importance to the economy, and both private individuals and government officials invested in them. The Jūybārī shaikhs are credited with at least six large projects between 964/1556 and 987/1580 to bring water to barren lands (Kašmīrī, fols. 302a-05b). Thanks to their close ties to the political authorities they were able to requisition thousands of workers to fulfill their corvee (ḥašar, mard-kār, bīgār) obligations on at least one of these projects, a six-year-long excavation in the Vaḵš basin (ibid., fol. 316a-b).
There are numerous records of government investment, especially through its allocation of corvee, in irrigation systems. Some of the more striking instances involved the region along the left bank of the Oxus river in the desert region between the Sorḵāb/Surkhab (Āq Sarāy) and Ḥażrat-e Emām Ṣāḥeb in the east and Ḵolm in the west. Several projects were undertaken to bring water from the Oxus and from the Sorḵāb between 992/1584 and 1046/1635, with only limited success (Ḥāfeẓ-e Tānīš, fol. 369b on ʿAbd-Allāh b. Eskandar’s work; Mīr Sayyed Šarīf Rāqem, fol. 220b, on the work done under the aegis of the Janibegid amir Emāmqolī during 1043/1633-34 and the violence involved; and Maḥmūd b. Amīr Walī, fol. 215b, for Naḏr-Moḥammad’s contributions, also during the first half of the 11th/17th century).
Irrigation systems also influenced the physical organization of the countryside. A village (qarīa, mawżeʿ) was often defined by the irrigation channels that watered it. For example, in Balḵ the villages of Greater Balḵ, the Haždah Nahr (Eighteen canals) region, are treated in geographical sources as simple dependencies of the trunk canals supplying their water (see Salakhetdinova, pp. 222-28; Mukhtarov, pp. 99-109). In the countryside near Karmīna, between Samarqand and Bukhara, eleven villages were purchased on 22 Rabīʿ I 974/6 November 1566 (Bertel’s, no. 370). The boundaries of these villages frequently appear in the sales records as waterways, either feeders (nahr, jūy, kām) or drainage canals (zehkaš, afdaq), or other settlements defined in terms of water resources.
The supply of water, both for crops and for drinking, also affected the administrative organization and spatial plan of towns and cities. Greater Samarqand traditionally comprised seven districts (tūmānāt; Bartol’d, pp. 193-94), Bukhara some fifteen to twenty districts (Barthold, Turkestan3, pp. 113-16), and Balḵ eighteen “canals” (anhār; Salakhetdinova, pp. 222-28; Mukhtarov, pp. 99-109), all organized around the trunk canals supplying water and often named after their canals (Rūd-e Šahr, Ḵarqānrūd, Jūy-e Now in Bukhara; Anhār and Anhār-e Jadīd in Samarqand; Nahr-e Šāhī, Nahr-e ʿAbd-Allāh, and Nahr-e Eṣfahān in Balḵ; etc.). These districts expanded or contracted and changed names over time but on the whole showed remarkable continuity through the 4th-13th/10th-19th centuries. The inner cities were divided into smaller units, such as kūy, maḥalla, goḏar, bāzār. These quarters were usually defined by a mosque (masjed) and a communal reservoir (hawż or sar hawż), though the reservoir on occasion served several quarters (Sukhareva, pp. 21-22).
Agriculture. Only scattered information survives on the relative importance of agricultural commodities in this early period. Nevertheless, it is clear that grain made up the bulk of agricultural production and in times of monetary scarcity or uncertainty served as a capital reserve. Waqf deeds of the 10th/16th and 11th/17th centuries frequently specify income in terms of mans, ḵarvārs, and šotorvārs (units of weight of varying values, see Davidovich, 1970) of wheat (gandom) and barley (jow) of varying qualities (Chekhovich and Vil’danova; Davidovich, 1983, pp. 280-91). The infrastructure of the grain trade included water-driven mills (āsyāb), as well as animal-powered ones (ḵarās), silos (anbār), and bakeries (nānvā). Implicit in the assignment of quantities of grain as salaries to beneficiaries of waqf endowments is a network of grain brokers, who could make the market in grain by storing and transporting as well as buying and selling. The grain was harvested twice a year, in the fall and the spring. Levies on the crops were designated as kabūd-barī (late spring planting) or safīd-barī (winter planting; Abduraimov, pp. 55, 135; Nūr-Moḥammad, p. 69).
Farmers planted varieties of cereal grains on their land. A sale document of 965/1558 for a piece of land mentions that it had twenty-two man of wheat and twelve man of barley planted on it (Bertel’s, no. 195). Mixing crops (cereals, legumes, and fruits) on small parcels also seems to have been quite common. A walled garden (moḥawwaṭa) purchased by Ḵᵛāja Moḥammad-Eslām Jūybārī in Šawwāl 965/July-August 1558 had sixty grape vines, a field of alfalfa (yūruṇčqa-zār), pomegranate (anār) trees, a grove of figs (anjīrestān) and some non-fruit-bearing trees (ibid., no. 248). The land was plowed with oxen. In a purchase of various properties in Naḵšab/Nasaf, Ḵᵛāja Jūybārī (d. 25 Ṣafar 971/14 October 1563) acquired two pairs of draft oxen (do joft gāv-e kārī). Two of the oxen were eight years old and a dark reddish color (sīāh-ālā); another was seven years old and black, and the fourth, of unknown age, is described as qūba-rang in coloring. With the cattle he also acquired two used straight-grained poplar (safīdār-e dorost) yokes and two plows (āmāč) of straight-grained mulberry, both used (Bertel’s, no. 375).
Besides grain Central Asia was famous in the 10th/16th and 11th/17th centuries for its fruit. Balḵ is known in Mughal sources for its pomegranates, figs, grapes, peaches, and apricots (Habib, map 1 A-B). Bābor recommended the apples and the ṣāḥebī grape of Samarqand, the mīr-tīmūrī melon of Aḵsīkat, and the melons and wine of Bukhara (Bābor, pp. 77, 82-83). In the mid-10th/16th century, Ḵᵛāja Saʿd Jūybārī bought a representative fruit orchard in the suburbs of Bukhara which included groves of pomegranates, figs, apricots, apples, plums, and mulberries in it (Bertel’s, no. 117). When the Toqay-Timurid Naḏr-Moḥammad, appanage holder of Balḵ, celebrated the ʿĪd al-Feṭr of 1048/5 February 1639 in Naḵšab with his brother Emāmqolī, the great khan at Bukhara, of the “1,000 ḵarvārs” of different fruits that he brought to the celebration his chronicler mentions two varieties of pomegranate, the “Qazvīnī pomegranate” and the “milk and sugar (šīr o šekar) pomegranate,” of which ten and eight ḵarvārs, respectively, were brought to the feast (Maḥmūd b. Amīr Walī, fol. 248b). Fresh melons required careful transport, and, since they did not store well, oversupply could be a problem. In a letter to Ḵᵛāja Saʿd Jūybārī, the Shibanid ʿAbd-Allāh b. Eskandar spoke of the arrival of a shipment of Bābā-šayḵī melons (ḵarboza) in very poor condition and asked him to send some more camel loads, either of the Bābā-šayḵī, karkak, or Ḵᵛāja Pīlmāsī varieties, but to be careful “not to send too many lest they rot” (presumably before they could be sold; Kašmīrī, fol. 311 b).
Grapes were one of the most popular commodities, judging by the frequency with which vineyards are mentioned in the Jūybārī documents. Vineyards purchased by the Jūybārī shaikhs ranged in size from 23 to 225 vines. Six of seventeen vineyards were small, having between 23 and 56 vines; another seven were medium sized, from 67 to 97 vines, and three were relatively large with 130, 135, 190, and 225 vines (Bertel’s, nos. 111, 118, 123, 124, 127, 158, 161, 162(b), 163, 164, 172, 173, 174, 215, 216, 220, 248). Of the many kinds of (motanawweʿa) grapes the Ḵalīlī grape is singled out several times.
Mulberry (tūt or šāh-tūt) was important for its fruit, for its leaves, which were fed to silkworms, and for its wood. There are one or two records of the size of the parcels on which groves of mulberry trees were planted. In one case, a grove of mulberries used about 154 sq gaz (perhaps equivalent to 38 m2) per tree (70 trees on 3 ṭanābs of land; 1 ṭanāb = 3,600 sq gaz). In another, the trees were planted with some 77 sq gaz of land allotted to each one (70 trees on 1.5 ṭanābs) and on a third, we find 80 mulberries and four sorb (senjed) trees on about 85 sq gaz each (2 ṭanābs; Bertel’s, nos, 310, 320, 321).
Other products mentioned in our written sources were pulse (māš), varieties of reed (nay, kūm), sorb, kajam (sour grapes?), almonds, zerek (barberry?), amrūd (bitter orange?), pistachios, and walnuts. Low-grade wheat and barley along with alfalfa are frequently mentioned as livestock feed (ʿalaf-e dawāb; Bertel’s, nos. 162, 159, 240, 362).
The manufacturing and commercial life of the towns. Agricultural production supported a varied and highly specialized economy of commerce and manufacture in the hubs of the oasal or irrigation districts of Balḵ, Bukhara, and Samarqand. Each town was often known for a special product or commodity: Samarqand for its paper, Balḵ for its fruits and horses, and Bukhara for its textiles, especially gold brocade (zarbāft), shagreen (kīmḵᵛāb, kīmoḵt), and satin (aṭlas), but nearly all trades (Mukminova, 1976, identifies some 130 major crafts) were practiced wherever there was a clientele to support them. The main sectors were the service industries (mostly retailers but including government employees as well), food processing, textile production, metalworking, ceramic and glass making, and the construction industry. Out of 73 individuals in the mid-10th/16th century known to have lived or owned property in the Mollā Amīrī Mosque quarter (kūy, bāzār) of Bukhara, which contained at least two streets, the Bāzār-e Būryā (Mat Street) and Bāzār-e Rīsmān (Rope-makers Street), 31 may be identified by occupation: Personnel from service industries included grocers (baqqāl), retailers (sawdāgar), a shoemaker (mūzapardāz), a bath attendant (ḥammāmī), a grain broker (ʿallāf), and a teamster (arābčī). Government officialdom was represented by two policemen (dārūḡas); the food processing industry by a miller (āsīābān); the metalworking trades by two foundrymen (rīḵtagar); construction by two carpenters (dorūdgar, najjār), a stonemason (sangtarāš), and a lime slaker (gačpaz) and by four sawyers’ shops (taḵtaband), a chisel maker’s shop (čīlāngar), and a file maker’s shop (sowhangar); the textile and weaving industry was represented by two felt makers (ālāčabāf), basket and mat weavers (loḵbāf), four carpet weavers (qālīnbāf), a spinner (lawwāf), and a tentmaker (ḵeymadūz); and the ceramics trades by a single potter (kūsatarāš). There were also a bow maker (kamāngar) and an engraver (naqqāš) living in the quarter and shops for harness makers (tūqūmdūz) and saddlers (sarrāj). Some of the trades-people whose names appear as witnesses on the sales records in this quarter were tailors (darzī), weavers (bāfanda), knife makers (kārdgar), and nail makers (mīḵčagar). The Jūybārīs purchased 29 commercial properties in the quarter, for the most part shops, but also two warehouses. Properties adjacent to those purchased included 58 shops with rooms (perhaps for living) attached and 24 residences ranging from single ḵānas to ḥowaylīs, that is, walled compounds made up of several distinct structures (Bertel’s, nos. 12, 15, 18, 19, 26-28, 38, 40, 45, 51, 52, 80, 83, 86, 92, 265).
The names of the town quarters reflect their predominant activity, although this may not always have been the case. Thus, in the Tīm-e Jāmaforūšān wa Ṭāqīadūzān (Hatters and Haberdashers Quarter) of mid-10th/16th century Bukhara, where there were indeed many shops catering to clothing buyers, the largest number of workshops attributed to a single profession were those of the quivermakers (tarkešdūz; 12 shops mentioned in contrast to 6 shops of the clothing trade; Bertel’s, nos. 5, 14, 33-36, 40).
Ownership and exploitation of property. Economic activity in the 10th-11th/16th-17th centuries was very little regulated by government. In general, the state was content to collect its legal share of the net yield of agriculture and to impose miscellaneous taxes (generically labeled eḵrājāt), many of which seem to have been user’s fees—for instance, levies to pay for water management (mīrābāna), night watchmen (mīršabī, kotwālī), and market inspection (moḥtasebāna)—wherever and whenever necessary (see, e.g., Nūr-Moḥammad, p. 69). There is little, if any, evidence that the state tried to enrich itself through taxation. The Chingizid ruling families, the Shibanid and Toqay-Timurid khans and sultans of the 10th/16th and 11th/17th centuries, lived no better than their amirs and perhaps considerably less well than some of the more prominent representatives of the intelligentsia, especially the heads of Sufi orders, if we use philanthropic donations as an index of wealth. The wealth of the Chingizids derived from crown holdings they succeeded to, from inherited property, from investments in the international “gift” trade (e.g., the commercial-diplomatic missions exchanged by Bukhara, Agra/Delhi, and Qazvīn/Isfahan), and from the one-fifth share (the canonic ḵoms) of booty that their armies seized in wars (Maḥmūd b. Amīr Walī, fol. 223a). State lands (mamālek-e pādšāhī) may have also been a source of income. Although there is a clear division between privy purse (ḵezāna-ye ḵāleṣa/ḵāṣṣa) and the state treasury (ḵezāna-ye ʿāmera), in practice there was much blurring of the distinction in time of need (e.g., Naḏr-Moḥammad’s reimbursement of funds expended from the state fisc for expenses incurred when his brother Emāmqolī visited Balḵ in Ṣafar 1049/June 1639; Maḥmūd b. Amīr Walī, fol. 278b).
Documentary evidence outlines the customary division of the yield of agricultural land (see most recently Davidovich, 1979; Egani, 1979a-b). The owner’s share of income was typically thirty to forty percent of the gross yield. The government’s share, depending on the category of ownership into which private holdings fell, was either one-tenth or two-tenths of the gross yield. This is reflected in the terms used to describe the yield status and the tax status of land. In terms of yield, land could be described as čār-to-dah, meaning the owner’s share of the gross yield was forty percent, or se-to-dah, meaning the shark was thirty percent. In terms of the state’s claim on the owner’s share, land is characterized as dah-yak (or ʿošr), one-tenth of the gross yield which in the case of thirty-percent yield land could also be described as se-yak, that is, one-third of surplus, or dah-do (the standard ḵarāj). There were no doubt many variations on these apparent standards, including those in which the share of the owner was fixed not as a percentage but as an absolute amount denominated in either cash, produce, or both (12th-13th/18th-19th century examples are found in the sample rental contracts for waqf properties contained in, e.g., Monšaʾāt-e Amīr Naṣr-Allāh, ms. no. 465, Bukharskaya Oblastnaya Biblioteka).
The remaining sixty to seventy percent of the land’s product paid for labor, water, seed and plantings, and animal power. Although the designations may not be completely distinct, the kāranda (planter) apparently was hired for a set share of the harvest, while the mozāreʿ (lit., farmer) seems to have been the designation for the tenant with full management control (taṣarrof) of the land. The value of corvee levies (bīgār, ḥašar, mard-kār) is difficult to estimate but must have been substantial at certain times and places (see on irrigation projects, above).
In the legal documents—waqf deeds, sales (qabālajāt), court registrations of sales (eqrārāt)—three types of ownership are recognized: private (melk), trust (waqf), and state (mamlaka or mamlaka-ye pādšāhī). Ownership adheres to the individual or entity with the right, conditional or unrestricted, of disposal of property through sale, gift, bequest, inheritance, or trust.
The least restricted form of ownership is melk, in fact, in terms of the right of disposal it is unconditional ownership. From the viewpoint of government, tax claims to a greater or lesser portion of the yield of private property, melk, particularly land, evolved into three distinct categories: melk-e ḥorr-e ḵāleṣ or melk-e moṭlaq, private property exempt from taxation; melk-e ʿošrī or zamīn-e ʿošrī, property on which the owner paid one-third of his income (or one-tenth of the gross yield) as tax; and melk-e ḵarāj in which the owner paid two-thirds of his income or twenty percent of the gross yield. This last was also encompassed in the phrase two-thirds and one-third property (melk-e ṯolṯ wa ṯolṯānī; Davidovich, 1979, pp. 40-41). Owners wanting tax-exempt status could, under certain circumstances, acquire it by surrendering one-third of their property if ʿošr land, or two thirds if ḵarāj, for tax-exempt status on the remainder. The surrendered land became state land. This procedure was in use as early as 963/1556 (Chekhovich, 1955, pp. 223-40).
In 10th/16th- and 11th/17th-century Central Asia, melk appears as the most common and widespread form of ownership. Private property rights were found in another form as well: soknā or soknīyāt. It applied to privately owned rights on real estate held as mamlaka or waqf or even as the melk of a second party. The soknīyāt included buildings, furnishings, trees, vines, and crops that could be bought, sold, given away, inherited, and transferred to waqf, just like melk, and in many cases actually comprised a value comparable to the real estate. For example, in the sales of commercial buildings (shops, warehouses, baths) in Bukhara in the middle of the 10th/16th century, the prices of soknīyāt property tended to be as high as the price of comparable melk. The existence of soknīyāt rights seems not to have affected the market in the underlying property, in the case of melk. There are many instances in the Jūybārī sales documents in which land on which third parties owned soknīyāt in the form of gardens, orchards, or buildings freely changed hands. Generally, though, there was a tendency—if the actions of the Jūybārī shaikhs are typical—to gain possession of both the melk and soknīyāt of a property through separate purchases (see especially sales of shops in the Tīm-e Jāmaforūšān of Bukhara between Jomādā I 966/February 1568 and Jomādā I 976/November 1568; Bertel’s, nos. 5, 7, 14, 20, 29, 31, 33-36, 46, 260, 262-64).
Another important form of property tenure was raqaba, the meaning of which is not yet entirely certain. Like the institution of soknīyāt, raqaba appears most prominently in the records of the Jūybārī family’s property transactions. In Ṣafar 973/August 1565, Ḵᵛāja Saʿd purchased the “entire raqaba” of the village of Moḡīān in the Bukharan tūmān of Kāmāt. The document recording the transaction explicitly excludes from the sale the exceptions stipulated by the religious law (šaṛʿī): cemeteries, public roads, mosques, and soknīyāt (Bertel’s no. 277). At other times it seems to coincide with soknīyāt in describing the developed feature of a given piece of land. In one case a piece of property abutted the raqaba of a defined pond (kūl-e moʿayyan; Bertel’s, no. 370). In another instance, a residence (ḥowaylī) in Bukhara made up of two ḵānas, a reception room (dehlīz), and an entryway (rūy-e ḥowaylī) is said to have a raqaba of ninety gaz, that is, its raqaba covered an area of ninety square gaz (as measured by the “construction gaz of Bukhara”; Bertel’s, no. 71).
In the movement of private property from hand to hand inheritance played a major role. The Jūybārīs purchased a substantial amount of property from heirs to estates. We know this directly from the reference to the property of minors who, according to their attorneys, needed to liquidate the real estate they had inherited in order to pay debts incurred by the deceased or to have money to live on (e.g., Bertel’s, nos. 3, 11) and indirectly from the successive purchases of shares in common (sahm-e mošāʿ, sahm-e šāyeʿ) held by related individuals. The division of the estate of a Muslim follows clear and precise rules laid down in the Koran and in the amplifications of those rules made by lawyers over the centuries. Where it was not desirable to liquidate the property and distribute the proceeds, the heirs acquired shares in common, which they were free (subject only to the rules of pre-emption) to sell, give away, and in turn leave to their heirs. In waqf deeds of the 10th/16th and 11th/17th centuries (Mukminova, 1966, p. 192; McChesney, chap. 5) there are references to shares in land and water rights. Common shares could also be held in the soknīyāt and the raqaba of properties (Bertel’s, no. 3).
The variety and complexity of private property in Central Asia defies easy generalization. It is found in the hands of all levels of early modern society, from freed slaves to Chingizid sultans. In the Jūybārī records, women make up a large proportion of owners of abutting property as well as heirs and sellers. The real estate market does not seem to have been monopolized in any way, nor are there any signs of obstacles to ownership other than economic ones. The Jūybārī documents, sometimes cited as evidence of the more generalized phenomenon of the accumulation of property in the hands of a few, only provide us evidence of the building of a real estate empire by Ḵᵛāja Moḥammad-Eslām and his son Ḵᵛāja Saʿd and the not very successful struggle by the generations after Ḵᵛāja Saʿd to control this property empire. Although the Jūybārī family remained a prestigious one in Bukhara for generations afterwards, the consolidated properties were quickly broken up by inheritance and by the establishment of waqf foundations (see Moḥammad Ṭāleb, fols. 92b-95b on the waqf -supported institution of Ḵᵛāja Saʿd; fols. 123a-125a on the distribution of his estate after 997/1589; fols. 250b-251a on the distribution of property and waqf at the death of his son Tāj-al-Dīn 21 Ramażān 1056/31 October 1646).
State or mamlaka land figures rather insignificantly in the surviving documents. The practice of permitting the creation of soknīyāt on mamlaka land restricted the ability of the government to control its use, and in many cases it may have become indistinguishable from private property. To some extent mamlaka lands were replenished by the process of acquiring tax exemption on melk (see above).
Only waqf or endowed properties may have expanded during the 10th/16th and 11th/17th centuries at the expense of private ownership. In the surviving record of land tenure in Central Asia, waqf documents are prominent. Many large waqfs were established in this time: the Ahrarid waqfs (see Chekhovich, 1974), the waqf set up by Ḥabība-Solṭān Begom, daughter of a Timurid amir Jalāl-al-Dīn Sohrāb about 868/1463-64 for the ʿEšrat Khan mausoleum in Samarqand (Viatkin, pp. 111-36); Mīr ʿAlī Šīr Navāʾī’s (d. 906/1501) waqfs (Subtelny); Sultan Ḥosayn Bāyqarā’s 885/1480 waqf for the mazār of ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭāleb near Balḵ (McChesney); the waqf set up by Mehr-Solṭān Khanom, daughter-in-law of the Shibanid Moḥammad Khan for his madrasa in Samarqand about 926/1520 (Mukminova, 1966, p. 7); various waqfs of the Shibanids, their Uzbek amirs, and the urban intelligentsia (Davidovich, 1983, pp. 280-90); the waqfs of the 11th/17th-century Chingizids, the Toqay-Timurids, and their amirid backers in Bukhara and Balḵ (McChesney, chaps. 4-6; Chekhovich and Vil’danova).
But even this trend was reversible. As with mamlaka land, waqf endowments permitted the creation of soknīyāt, which had the effect of removing control of the income-producing properties from control of the waqf managers. Poor management, court litigation, and the de jure transfer of waqf properties through estebdāl exchange (i.e., legal exchange of waqf property for property of comparable value) or the de facto transfer through such instruments as the double-lease (ejāratayn) or repair-and-deduct provisions, in which the actual value of the property gradually passed to the tenant, continually transformed some amount of waqf holdings into melk even as new waqf endowments were being made (see, e.g., G. Baer, “Ḥikr,” in EI2, Supp., 5-6, pp. 368-70).
International trade. Central Asia remained a hub of overland long-distance trade in the 10th-11th/16th-17th centuries. Despite the existence of sea routes linking east Asia with Persia, the Middle East, and Europe and the increasing exploitation of these routes by new forms of investment (see Steensgaard, pp. 114ff.), overland caravan routes seem to have been little affected. In fact the period shows a resurgence of interest in expanding overland trade. The political leaders of Bukhara, Balḵ, and Ḵīva, as well as wealthy families like the Jūybārīs, sent their agents out in all directions in search of markets and goods (on Central Asian trade envoys to Russia including letters sent to and from these agents, see, e.g., Badr-al-Dīn Kašmīrī, fols. 90a-b, and Materialy po istorii, pp. 303-06); on the frequent exchanges of embassies between Central Asian politicians and the Mughal court many of which had a commercial component, see Riazul Islam, II, pp. 209ff., ʿEnāyat Khan, pp. 94, 148, 154, 244, 257, etc.; on a weapons-buying mission sent to Moscow, which returned to Bukhara in 990/early 1583, see Ḥāfeẓ-e Tānīš, fol. 378b; on the structure of trade between China and the khanates of Central Asia, see Fletcher). The records of international trade characteristically depict the more prominent “gift” trade, that is, the commercial-diplomatic missions that carried examples of the sending regions’ most exportable products. Such missions enjoyed comparative security and often exemption from the customs duties faced by the ordinary merchant, whose presence and activities on the trade routes must usually be inferred as a consequence of these official trade delegations or from the occasional document (e.g., the diary of the late 11th/17th-century Armenian merchant Hovhannes in Steensgaard, pp. 23-28).
A delegation sent by the Shibanid ʿAbd-Allāh b. Eskandar, great khan of Bukhara, to Akbar Shah in Agra in 994/1585 carried a typical range of Central Asian luxury goods as “gifts”: “choice pigeons” along with a noted pigeon player (kabūtarbāz), “choice horses, strong camels, swift mules, animals of the chase, and choice pūstīns (dressing gowns), and other rarities of the country” (Akbar-nāmā III, p. 735) or “hunting birds (bāz, šenqar, sokkan-e tāzī), horses, camels, and other appropriate royal gifts” (Ḥāfeẓ-e Tānīš, fols. 463b-464a). Such combined diplomatic and commercial delegations were the rule in international relations, and their frequency in the 10th-11th/16th-17th centuries, especially during the period 988-1050/1580-1640, is one sign of heightened interest in the economic potential of the overland routes (on the routes themselves see Habib, map 1 A-B; for the southern routes, ibid., notes, pp. 1-5; Carrère d’Encausse; Chuloshnikov, in Materialy po istorii, p. 67).
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(Robert D. McChesney)
Originally Published: December 15, 1990
Last Updated: January 1, 2000
This article is available in print.
Vol. V, Fasc. 2, pp. 216-221
Robert D. McChesney, “CENTRAL ASIA xi. Economy from the Timurids until the 18th Century,” Encyclopædia Iranica, V/2, pp. 216-221, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/central-asia-xi (accessed on 30 December 2012).