ESKANDAR BEG TORKAMĀN MONŠĪ, author of Tārīḵ-e ʿālamārā-ye ʿabbāsī (q.v.), a history of the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I. Internal evidence indicates that Eskandar Beg was born in 968/1560 or 969/1561: He was twenty-six years old when he fought on the side of Ḥamza Mīrzā at the battle of Ṣāʾen Qalʿa (spring of 994/1586) and seventy years old in 1038/1628-29 when he completed his history (I, pp. 336, 1095, tr. Savory, pp. 472-73, 1325). The statement in the Merʾāt al-ʿālam (apud Storey, I/1, p. 310) that Eskandar Beg died in the year in which he completed his history (1028/1628-9) appears to be incorrect. In the introduction to the chronicle, formerly termed Ḏayl-e Tārīḵ-e ʿālamārā-ye ʿabbāsī and now known as the Ḵolāṣat al-sīar, “it is stated that when Iskandar-munshī brought his ʿĀlamārā to completion, he was requested to extend his famous annals over the reign of Shah ʿAbbās I’s successor, Ṣafī. After some hesitation, the aged historian (then 70 years old) started on his new work” (Minorsky, p. 540). The chronicle, however, was completed by Moḥammad b. Maʿṣūm b. Ḵᵛājagī Eṣfahānī, who says that he covered ten years of the reign of Shah Ṣafī. Since Ṣafī reigned for fourteen years (1038-52/1629-42), it seems virtually certain that the first four years of his reign were recorded by Eskandar Beg, who must, therefore, have died about 1043/1633 (Storey, I/2, pp. 1280-81).
Few personal details are known about the life of Eskandar Beg. He started his career in the Safavid bureaucracy by studying bookkeeping (ʿelm-e sīāq), but he soon gave this up as unworthy of his talents and obtained an appointment in the royal chancellery (daftar-ḵāna-ye homāyūn) and started at the Dīvān-e wekālat. Shortly later he was transferred to the Dīvān-e enšāʾ, where he worked for some time under Mawlānā Moḥammad-Amīn Monšī. His promotion was rapid when Qāżī Aḥmad was put in charge of the chancellery. In 1001/1592-93 he joined the rank of royal secretaries (monšīān-e ʿeżām)and from that moment his career in the shah’s personal service began (ʿĀlamārā, pp. 1-2, 455; tr., 2, p. 628; Qāżī Aḥmad, tr. Minorsky, pp. 97-98). As a result, he was either an eyewitness of many of the events he described or was in a good position to ascertain the truth. He accompanied the Shah on many of his expeditions, and was for a time attached to the retinue of the vizier Ḥātem Beg Ordūbādī (ʿĀlamārā, p. 755, tr., p. 948). A collection of his epistles reportedly exists in a manuscript bearing the title Ketāb tarassol men monšaʾāt-e Ḵᵛāja Eskandar Bīg Monšī (ʿĀlamārā II, Afšār’s introd., p. seven).
Bibliography (for cited works not given in detail, see “Short References”):
F. von Erdmann, “Iskender Munschi und sein Werk,” ZDMG 15, 1861, pp. 457-501.
V. Minorsky, in BSO(A)S 10/2, 1940-42, pp. 539-41.
Ṣafā, Adabīyāt V/3, pp. 1742-45.
(Roger M. Savory)
Originally Published: December 15, 1998
Last Updated: January 19, 2012
This article is available in print.
Vol. VIII, Fasc. 6, pp. 602- 603