Timurid historiography is firmly rooted within the Persian literary tradition of official court histories of the post-Mongol period, such as the Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ of Rašid-al-Din, and the Tāriḵ-e jahān-gošā by ʿAṭā-Malek Jovayni, as well as being nourished by local traditions of regional history, notably Sayf Heravi’s chronicle of the Karts (Kurts) of Herat (see Sayf b. Muḥammad b. Yaʿqub al-Heravi). During the Timurid period the historiographical school of Khorasan bloomed and developed into a canon that was adopted and followed beyond the Timurid period in Iran and Transoxiana. The Khorasan school set a model of creative historical writing in different historical genres, such as universal and dynastic chronicles, local histories, biographies, memoirs, etc. Although nearly all of these existed in previous times (perhaps with the exception of autobiographical writings), the Timurid period witnessed their development to an unprecedented level. Several major chronicles date from the Timurid period, and the works of authors such as Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, Mirḵᵛānd, or Ḵᵛāndamir spread all over the Muslim world and became standards for the centuries to come. In addition to a pronounced interest in local histories (Herat, Samarkand, Bukhara, Balkh, etc.), Timurid writers developed a specific genre of local historiography: topographical descriptions, and pilgrimage guides to local shrines coupled with biographical information on the saintly people buried there. Timurid historiography re-invented the literary taḏkera (biographical dictionary) and opened the class of historiography to non-official writings such as personal memoirs and autobiographies. In all respects, the achievements of Timurid historiography can be viewed as a part of the general efflorescence of literary and scientific life in this period. The universal patronage of arts and sciences by the Timurid rulers, members of the dynastic family, and court and provincial dignitaries became an important factor in securing the bases of intellectual and creative activities (Yakubovskiĭ, 1946; Aubin, 1957a; Subtelny, 1984; Thackston, 1989). At the beginning of the Timurid period, court historians were often linked to the cultural centers of central Iran, such as Shiraz or Yazd, formerly part of the Il-khanid state. By the second half of the 15th century, Samarkand and Herat entered the scene as the main centers of Timurid intellectual life. It can certainly be stated (see Woods, 1987, p. 82) that the Timurid school of historiography was brought to maturity by native scholars from eastern Iranian regions and Transoxiana.

Languageof the works. The predominant language of Timurid historiography is Persian. However, the Timurid intellectual milieu witnessed, and encouraged, a rapid development of the Chaghatay (Čaḡatāy, or Turki) language. Use of Chaghatay spread in literature, especially poetry, at Timurid courts throughout the 15th century (Borovkov, pp. 99-120; Eckman, pp. 304-61; Bombaci, pp. 133-83; Kleinmichel). There are indications that already during the reign of Timur (771-807/1370-1405) historiographical works were written in Chaghatay as well as in other Turkic languages. Unfortunately, these chronicles are not extant today but are known only through quotations in other sources (Woods, 1987, p. 83). At the very end of the 15th century in Herat, Mir ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi wrote several works in Chaghatay: two short chronicles and a collection of biographies, the Majāles al-nafāyes (see below). From the early 16th century onwards many other works were composed in Chaghatay. They were all rooted in the Persian Khorasani historiographical tradition, even if they already belonged to post-Timurid historiographies: for example, in Transoxiana, a history of the Shaybanids, the Tawāriḵ-e gozida-ye noṣrat-nāma (ed. A. M. Akramov, Tashkent, 1967) was written about 908-10/1502-05 probably by Moḥammad-Ṣāleḥ Boḵāri (but see Akhmedov, 1985, pp. 12-13); and in Mughal India, the Bābor-nāma by Ẓahir-al-Din Moḥammad Bābor (see below).

Ideology of Timurid chronicles. The ideological role of official Timurid historiography focused on two main issues. From the start, it was concerned with establishing the legitimacy and constructing an ideological frame of rulership for Timur, and through him for his son Šāhroḵ, whose personality dominated the first half of the 15th century. The genealogies and other writings of the early period insist on the tribal (Barlās) origin and Chingizid link of the Timurids. With the coming to the throne of Solṭān-Abu Saʿid in Herat (r. 863-73/1459-69), the historiographers had to face a major difficulty created by this switch of power inside the dynasty. They had to resolve how, without discrediting Šāhroḵ, whose status as the rightful ruler was unquestionable by then, they were to legitimize the loss of power by his descendants in favor of a prince descending from Mirānšāh, another son of Timur. These two questions were recurrent in Timurid historiography until the second half of the 15th century, when a historiographical canon was finally adopted (Lambton, 1978; Woods, 1987; Manz; Bernardini, 2003, n. 18).


Timur’s reign. One of the rare contemporary sources known today that concerns itself with the life and deeds of Timur is the Ẓafar-nāma (ed. F. Tauer, Prague, 1937, 1956) written in 806/1404 by Neẓām-al-Din ʿAli Šāmi (d. before 814/1411-12) by commission of the ruler (Storey-Bregel, pp. 787-91). Šāmi’s narrative is mostly based on oral sources, eyewitness accounts, and, presumably, some vanished written sources from Timur’s reign. The text was revised by the author after the death of Timur, and the second version was dedicated to Timur’s grandson, ʿOmar b. Mirānšāh. Šāmi’s chronicle was extensively studied by Felix Tauer (1932 and 1934), and more recently by John Woods (1987, pp. 85-87). It was used and extended by later historiographers, notably Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru (see below). Not later than 805/1403, Ḡiāṯ-al-Din ʿAli Yazdi, secretary at the court of Timur, wrote the Ruz-nāma-ye ḡazawāt-e Hendustān (ed. L. A. Zimin and V. V. Bartol’d, St. Petersburg, 1915; Russian tr. A. A. Semyonov, Moscow, 1958), the earliest account of the Indian campaign of Timur (Storey-Bregel, p. 787). This text has undoubtedly influenced later historiographers, but at the same time it offered some variant early versions (Bartol’d, VIII, pp. 328-35; Woods, 1987, pp. 94-95). Here should be mentioned a rare and short chronicle entitled Ferdows al-tawāriḵ, written in 808/1405-06 in Fārs by Ḵosrow b. ʿĀbed Abarkuhi known as Ebn Moʿin (autograph in St. Petersburg National Library, Dorn 267; Bartol’d, I, p. 103; for a detailed bibliography of the historiography of Timur’s reign, see Bernardini, 2003).

First half of the 15th century. Several important chronicles were written by court historians during the reign of Šāhroḵ (811-50/1409-47). Tāj-al-Din Salmāni of Isfa-han is the author of the Šams al-ḥosn (ed. and German tr. H. R. Roemer, Wiesbaden, 1956; Turkish tr. İsmail Aka, Ankara, 1988), written originally on Timur’s commission but completed under Šāhroḵ (after 813/1410) as a continuation of Šāmi’s Ẓafar-nāma (Storey-Bregel, pp. 815-17). The book is devoted to the end of Timur’s life, the reign of Ḵalil-Solṭān in Samarkand (811/1409), and the early years of Šāhroḵ; it was extensively used by Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru (Woods, 1987, pp. 88-89; Aka 1994). Moʿin-al-Din Naṭanzi’s first version of his world history (known as “Eskandar Anonymous”), written ca. 816/1413-14, was dedicated to his Timurid patron Eskandar b. ʿOmar-Šayḵ, governor of Shiraz (812-16 /1409-14). Later, the revised and edited version of it was presented to Šāhroḵ under the title Montaḵab al-tawāriḵ-e moʿini (ed. J. Aubin, Tehran, 1957, with extensive commentaries). The narrative, proceeding from Rašid-al-Din’s Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ, extends until the reign of Timur and contains important material on the ethnogenesis of the Timurids (Storey-Bregel, p. 339; Woods, 1987, p. 90). Graphic dynastic tables included in the book are an original feature of Naṭanzi’s representation of history (Aigle, 1992). Ḥasan b. Šehāb Yazdi (d. after 855/1451), also formerly in the service of Eskandar b. ʿOmar-Šayḵ at Shiraz, wrote the Jāmeʿ al-tawāriḵ-e ḥasani (ed. Ḥ. Modarressi Ṭabāṭabāʾi and Iraj Afšār, Karachi, 1987) and dedicated it to Mo-ḥammad b. Mirzā Bāysonḡor. Too easily dismissed in Storey-Bregel (p. 358) as not interesting, the chronicle adds quite independent and therefore valuable information on the early Timurid period in central Iran (Soucek). An untitled text on Timurid genealogy, also written for Eskandar b. ʿOmar-Šayḵ in 816/1413 (ms. Istanbul, Topkapı Saray, B.411), is sometimes referred to as “A Synoptic Account of the House of Timur” (Thackston, 1989, pp. 237-46). The author’s name is not quoted but it could be a work by Naṭanzi (Soucek, p. 76). The Foṣul al-solṭāniya fi oṣul al-ensāniya is another anonymous genealogical work written probably in Fārs and dedicated to its Timurid governor Ebrāhim-Solṭān b. Šāhroḵ (818-38/1415-35; Storey-Bregel, pp. 354-55). It is concerned with genealogies of tribes and dynasties, including Timur’s, with special attention to ʿAlid lines.

Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru (d. 833/1430; q.v.) started his career at Timur’s court and flourished under Šāhroḵ (Storey-Bregel, pp. 341-49, 818; Tauer, 1963). He is the author of several chronicles of the early Timurid dynasty, based on Šāmi and Naṭanzi, and on other sources which are lost today (Woods, 1987, p. 99; Bernardini, 2003, n. 13). He is the author of the Ḏayl (Continuation) of the Ẓafar-nāma-ye Šāmi, written in 814/1412 (ed. F. Tauer, Prague, 1934), and the Tāriḵ-e Šāhroḵ (three versions are known, the narrative carried down to 816/1413, 819/1416, and 830/1426-27 respectively). The Ḏayl and the second revision of the Tāriḵ-e Šāhroḵ were included in his compilation known as Majmuʿa-ye Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru, while its third version forms the last section of his Zubdat al-tawāriḵ (ed. K. Javādi, Tehran, 1993), included in Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru’s world history titled Majmaʿ al-tawāriḵ. The Zubdat al-tawāriḵ is dedicated to Mirzā Bāysonḡor, son of Šāhroḵ (Tauer, 1932; 1934; 1963). In 832/1427-28, Šaraf-al-Din ʿAli Yazdi (d. 858/1454) completed his Ẓafar-nāma (ed. M. ʿAbbāsi, Tehran, 1957; ed. A. Urinboev, Tashkent, 1972) at the court of Ebrāhim-Solṭān b. Šāhroḵ, governor of Fārs (Storey-Bregel, pp. 797-807). Yazdi’s work, containing the history of Timur and Ḵalil-Solṭān in Samarkand (r. 807-11/1405-09), achieved great popularity and was extensively drawn upon by later historiographers for its data on early Timurid chronology, genealogy, etc. The text generated several abridgements in Timurid and later periods, especially in Iran and India (list in Storey-Bregel, pp. 806-7). The importance of Yazdi’s Ẓafar-nāma has recently been confirmed by modern scholarship (Woods, 1987, p. 100; Ando, 1995).

The anonymous Moʿezz al-ansāb fi šajarat al-ansāb (ms. Bibliothèque nationale, Paris, Persan 67) is a genealogical work dedicated to the houses of Čengiz Khan and Timur, commissioned by Šāhroḵ and composed in 830/1426 (Storey-Bregel, pp. 818-19; Woods, 1987, p. 93; Ando, 1992; Quinn). Faṣiḥ Ḵᵛāfi (Faṣiḥ Aḥmad b. Jalāl-al-Din Moḥammad, d. after 845/1442), a court official first in the service of Šāhroḵ, then of Mirzā Bāysonḡor, is the author of an important historical and biographical compilation titled Mojmal-e faṣiḥi (ed. M. Farroḵ, Ma-šhad, 1960-62; Russian tr. D. Yu. Yusupova, Tashkent, 1980). The narrative extends until the year 845/1441-42. The epilogue (ḵātema) is entirely devoted to the description of Herat (Bartol’d, I, p. 104; ed. Yusupova, Introd.). In the latter part of the century, this special attention to Herat would become characteristic of Timurid historiography (see below). Around 831/1428, Moḥammad b. Fażl-Allāh Musawi, originally of Khorasan, wrote Tāriḵ-e ḵayrāt or Aṣaḥḥ al-tawāriḵ, a world history up to the death of Timur (807/1405), later extended by himself or another author up to the death of Šāhroḵ (850/1447) (Storey-Bregel, pp. 352-53; Bartol’d, VIII, pp. 105, 323-27). Between 838/1434 and 850/1447, Moḥammad b. Maḥmud Fušanji “Masiḥi” produced for Šāhroḵ the ʿEbrat al-nāẓerin, an abridged history of the world up to the death of Timur, a close compilation of earlier authors, with an opening chapter on Herat city (Storey-Bregel, pp. 353-54; Bartol’d, VIII, p. 406).

Second half of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century. Kamāl-al-Din Razzāq Samarqandi (d. 887/1482), court official in the service of Šāhroḵ, wrote a chronicle of the Timurid dynasty titled Maṭlaʿ al-saʿdayn wa maj-maʿ al-baḥrayn (ed. M. Šafiʿ, Lahore, 1360-68/1941-49; ed. A. Urunboev, Tashkent, 1969; ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥosayn Navāʾi, Tehran, 1974), for which the Zobdat al-tawāriḵ of Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru was the main source (Storey-Bregel, pp. 820 ff.; Urinboev; Bernardini, 2003, n. 17). The narrative goes from 704/1304-05 (birth of the last Il-khanid ruler Abu Saʿid-Solṭān) until 875/1470 (second accession of Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā). Mir ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi (d. 906/1501), court dignitary and intimate of Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā, wrote two short chronicles of ancient prophets, sages, and Iranian kings of pre-Islamic times under the titles Tāriḵ-e anbiyā wa ḥokamā and Tāriḵ-e moluk-e ʿAjam (ed. in Alisher Navoi, Sochineniya XIV, Tashkent, 1967). Both works, in the Chaghatay language, were composed between 890/1485 and 904/1498-99 (Volin, pp. 205, 207; Ḵalilov; Storey-Bregel, pp. 718-19).

The historiography of the later Timurid period can certainly be viewed as dominated by a line of historiographers: Mirḵvand,Ḵᵛāndamir, and—in the early post-Timurid period in Herat—Amir Maḥmud (Szuppe, 1992, pp. 49-60). Moḥammad b. Borhān-al-Din Ḵᵛānd-šāh known as Mirkᵛānd (d. 903/1498), from a Bukharan sayyed family established in Balkh, is probably the best known Persian historiographer, together with his grandson Ḵᵛāndamir. Mirḵᵛānd spend his adult life in the service of the Timurid court at Herat under the patronage of Mir ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi. He wrote a world history in seven volumes and an epilogue (ḵātema), titled Rawżat al-ṣafā fi sirat al-anbiyā wa’l-moluk wa’l-ḵolafā (ed. ʿA. Parviz, Tehran, 1960-72), extending until the reign of Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (875-912/1470-1506) and his descendants in Herat (Storey-Bregel, pp. 361-78). The last volume of this work, as well as the epilogue—devoted to geography—were obviously written by Ḵᵛāndamir after the death of Mirḵᵛānd. Ḡiāṯ-al-Din b. Homām-al-Din Moḥammad known as Ḵᵛāndamir (d. 941/1534-35), Mirkᵛānd’s grandson by a daughter, spent his life at the Herat court before leaving for India in 934/1528 and joining the service of Ẓahir-al-Din Bābor (r. 932-37 /1526-30) (Storey-Bregel, pp. 379-93). In Herat, he had been introduced into the literary circles by his own grandfather, and he worked under the patronage of the Timurid royal court, and then of the Safavid provincial court (Subtelny; Szuppe, 1992, pp. 55-57). Ḵᵛāndamir is the author of the Ḵolāṣat al-aḵbār fi bayān aḥwāl al-aḵyār (partial ed. G. Eʿtemādi, Kabul, 1966), an abridgement of the Rawżat al-ṣafā compiled in or before 905/1499-1500 and dedicated to Mir ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi (on the autograph of the Ḵolāṣat al-aḵbār, see Piemontese). The chronicle contains a large part devoted to the description of Herat and its famous inhabitants. His main historical work is the Ḥabib al-siar fi aḵbār afrād al-bašar (ed. J. Homāʾi, Tehran, 1954; 1972; 1983; partial English tr. W. M. Thackston, Cambridge, Mass., 1994), a world history in four volumes, dedicated to the Safavid governor of Herat Ḵᵛāja Ḥabib-Allāh Sāvaji (d. 932/1526). The narrative extends until 930/1524. The second edition of this work was completed in 935/1529 in India by the author himself (Miklukho-Maklaĭ; Szuppe 1992, pp. 55-56). Mirḵᵛānd’s Rawżat al-ṣafā and Kᵛāndamir’s Ḥabib al-siar are monuments of late Timurid prose historiography for their flowery and highly intricate style as well as for the careful historical approach to the sources the authors used and collated, both written and oral. Mirḵᵛānd’s and Ḵᵛāndamir’s works subsequently enjoyed a widespread and continuous popularity, as can be seen from hundreds of manuscripts still extant that have been copied over the centuries in all parts of the Muslim world.

Post-Timurid chronicles. Historiographers of Transoxiana and Khorasan of the early 16th century were directly formed by the Timurid tradition and depended on it heavily, regardless of whether they exercised their activity under the Safavid, Uzbek, or Mughal political regimes. Many of them had started their career in the Timurid period, and they continued it under the patronage of new rulers. In 937/1531 in Safavid Herat, Amir Ṣadr-al-Din Solṭān-Ebrāhim “Amini” (d. 941/1535) completed his Fotuḥāt-e šāhi, a history of Šāh Esmāʿil Ṣafawi commissioned by the shah ten years earlier (Storey-Bregel, pp. 850-52). This book had two versions: one in prose and the other in verse (Szuppe, 1992, pp. 54-55; Aubin, 1995). Amir Maḥmud, son of Ḵᵛāndamir (d. after 957/1550) is the author of the Tāriḵ-e Šāh Esmāʿil-e awwal wa Šāh Ṭahmāsb (ed. Ḡ.-R. Ṭabāṭabāʾi, Tehran, 1991; ed. M.-ʿA. Jarrāḥi, Tehran, 1991), also known as the Ḏayl-e tāriḵ-e ḥabib al-siar since it was conceived as a continuation of Ḵᵛāndamir’s chronicle (Storey-Bregel, pp. 854-55). Although Amir Maḥmud drew heavily on the Ḥabib al-siar in the first part of the book, the second part is entirely original and extends to 957/1550 (Szuppe, 1992, pp. 57-59). In the Uzbek realm, Kamāl-al-Din Šir-ʿAli “Banāʾi” (d. 918/1512) wrote a history of the Shaybanid ruler Moḥammad Khan, the first version of which was titled Šaybāni-nāma (ed. K. Kubo, in A Synthetical Study on Central Asian Culture in the Turco-Islamic Period, directed by Eiji Mano. Research Report, Kyoto, March 1997, pp. 26-68) and the enlarged version, the Fotuḥāt-e ḵāni (Storey-Bregel, pp. 1116-19; Mirzoev). This chronicle was among Ḵᵛāndamir’s sources for the history of the Uzbek khans in his Ḥabib al-siar.

Historical poetry. In addition to chronicles in prose, which usually contain many poetic quotations, historical epic poems can be included, under some conditions, among the historiographical writings (Fragner, p. 61). Their specific value as historical sources has recently been convincingly argued for as illustrated by the Teymur-nāma-ye / Ẓafar-nāma-ye Hātefi, a maṯnavi by ʿAbd-Allāh Hātefi (ed. A. H. S. Yušaʿ, Madras, 1958), dedicated to Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (Bernardini, 1996; Bernardini, 2003). Hātefi used the Ẓafar-nāma of Yazdi as his main source. This genre became extremely popular in the late Timurid period. Even after the fall of the Timurids (913/1507), it produced several important texts which, although chronologically part of Safavid or Uzbek literatures, clearly belong to the Timurid tradition; such is Hātefi’s Esmāʿil-nāma, written in Herat in 917/1511-12 by commission of the Safavid shah (Storey-Bregel, p. 852). The genre continued in the Safavid period, as can be seen from the example of Mirzā Moḥammad-Qāsem Qāsemi Jonābādi’s (d. 982/1574-75) maṯnavi poems of šāh-nāma type, written over the years 930-967/1524-60, and devoted to the histories of Šāhroḵ, Shah Esmāʿil Ṣafawi, and Shah Ṭahmāsb Ṣafawi (Storey-Bregel, pp. 839-40; Bernardini, 1996). In Transoxiana, Moḥammad-Ṣāleḥ (d. 941/1534-35) composed a versified history of the Shaybanids in Chaghatay, titled Šaybāni-nāma (ed. P. M. Melioranskiĭ, St. Petersburg, 1908; ed. N. Dawrān, Tashkent, 1961; ed. E. Shadiev, Tashkent, 1989).


Collections of biographies(taḏkera). Biographical writings until the later Timurid period were traditionally concerned with the lives of saints and religious scholars and were sometimes translations or developments of Arabic originals, e.g., ʿAbd-Allāh Anṣāri Heravi’s Ṭabaqāt-e ṣufiya (early 11th cent.) and Farid-al-Din ʿAṭṭār Nišāpuri’s Taḏkerat al-awliāʾ (early 13th cent.). Quite exceptionally, in about 618/1221-22, Moḥammad ʿAwfi, of Bukharan origin but having lived in Samarkand and trav-eled all over Ḵʷārazm and Khorasan before going to Sind in about 617/1220, wrote the Lobāb al-albāb (ed. E. G. Browne, London and Leiden, 1903-06), which is considered to be the first Persian collection of literary biographies (Storey, no. 1088). It was only at the end of the 15th century that the literary taḏkera was revived and renewed. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Jāmi’s (d. 898/1492) collection of saintly biographies, the Nafaḥāt al-ons (ed. M. Taw-ḥidipur, Tehran, 1957; ed. al-Azhar al-Šarif, Cairo, 1989; ed. Maḥmud ʿAbedi, Tehran, 1992), compiled in 881/1476, prefigured the imminent evolution of the hagiographical taḏkera by including some entries on Sufi poets. But it was the celebrated Taḏkera-ye šoʿarā (ed. M. ʿAbbāsi, Tehran, 1958; ed. M. Ramażāni, Tehran, 1987), written in 892/1487 in Herat by Dawlatšāh b. ʿAlāʾ-al-Dawla Baḵtišāh Samarqandi (d. ca. 900/1494), that marked an important stage in the development of the Persian taḏkera (J. T. P. de Bruijn, “Tadhkira, 2, In Persian literature,” in EI2). It created a new canon for modern collections of biographies by enlarging it to include biographies of non-religious personalities and poets of all social classes, and systematically opening it to biographies of an author’s contemporaries. This approach led to the further development of Timurid historiography in the direction of personal memoirs and autobiographical writings (see below).

In 896/1490-91, Mir ʿAli-Šir Navāʾi composed the Ma-jāles al-nafāyes in Chaghatay (Storey, no. 1094; Browne, Lit. Hist. Persia III, pp. 437-39), which was translated into Persian for the first time by Faḵri Heravi in 928/1522-23 as Laṭāyef-nāma (other Persian translations are listed under Storey, no. 1094, pp. 792-95). Faḵri Heravi added some data on his own contemporaries and dedicated the book to the Safavid governor of Herat, Ḵᵛāja Ḥabib-Allāh Sāvaji (ed. ʿA.-A. Ḥekmat, Tehran, 1945; repr. Tehran, 1974). Navāʾi includes biographies of celebrities of his time and professional and amateur poets (e.g., the historiographer Mirkvānd). Other collections of biographies of the late Timurid period are: Majāles al-ʿoššāq, compiled in 908-909/1502-03 by the Timurid dignitary Kamāl-al-Din Ḥosayn Gāzorgāhi Ṭabasi (author identified by F. Richard, p. 197) for the ruler Solṭān-Ḥosayn Bāyqarā (mentioning poets of his time, including Jāmi); Rawżat al-šohadā (ed. A.-Ḥ. Šeʿrāni, Tehran, 1979; ed. ʿA. Baḵšāyeši, Qom, 2000) by Ḥosayn b. ʿAli Kāšefi Herāti “Wāʿeẓ” (d. 910/1504-05), consisting of biographies of imams and martyrs, which is of less interest from the historical point of view, though it was capital for Shiʿite milieus and conditioned many later authors of epic literature; and the Rašaḥāt-e ʿayn al-ḥayāt (ed. ʿAli-Aṣḡar Moʿiniān, Tehran, 2536=1356 Š./1977), composed in 909/1503-4 by Faḵr-al-Din ʿAli Kāšefi (d. 939/1532-33), son of Wāʿeẓ Kāšefi, which should be mentioned here for its contemporary material on the Naqš-bandi Sufi order. In the following decades, many taḏ-keras were written by authors emerging directly from the Timurid tradition. Among them, Ḵvāndamir wrote a rare collection of biographies of dignitaries and high state officials, the Dastur al-wozarāʾ, in 915/1509-10 (ed. Saʿid Nafisi, Tehran, 2535=1355 Š./1976; see Lambton; Tauer, 1968, pp. 449, 454). Solṭān-Moḥammad “Faḵri” of Herat (d. after 963/1555-56), a prolific author and the translator of Navāʾi’s Majāles al-nafāyes (see above), around 958/1551 composed the Rawżat al-salāṭin (ed. A. Ḵay-yāmpur, Tabriz, 1966; ed. S. H. Rashdi, Hyderabad, 1968). Another of Faḵri Heravi’s works is the first known Persian taḏkera exclusively describing famous women poets, called Jawāher al-ʿajāyeb (lith. Lakhnaw, 1873; ed. S. H. Rashdi, Hyderabad, 1968, pp. 111-42, in one volume with Faḵri’s Rawżat al-salāṭin and Divān) and written in 963/1555-56 at the court of the Arḡuns in Sind (Szuppe, 1996b). Faḵri’s two taḏkeras include prominent people of the Timurid cultural sphere of the 15th and early 16th centuries who wrote verse both in Persian and in Chaghatay (Szuppe, 1996a, pp. 160-161; Szuppe, 1996b). The Timurid and later taḏkeras must be treated with great caution when exploited for historical research, because they contain many inaccuracies. However, they cannot be overlooked, being first-hand sources for literary and intellectual history that have been brought into existence by the literary tradition itself (de Bruijn).

Individual biographies, and memoirs. Traditionally, medieval Muslim historical literature was rarely concerned with individual biographies. These were mostly hagiographical accounts of the lives of saints and mystics of Islam (see, e.g., Storey, no. 1251 for biographies of ʿAbd-al-Qāder Gilāni, or Storey, no. 1253 for Jalāl-al-Din Rumi). In the late Timurid period, a particular type of historico-biographical writing developed in parallel to the literary taḏkera genre (see above): individual biographies and—what appears as a complete novelty—memoirs, providing a different approach to historical events. The memorialists express direct personal views; they include anecdotes of everyday life, and, generally speaking, much data that is lacking in official historiography. In 906/1501, Ḵᵛāndamir wrote Makārem al-aḵlāq (ed. T. Gandjeï, Gibb Memorial Series, London, 1979; ed. M. A. ʿAšiq, Tehran, 1999), a glorified history of the life and good deeds of his patron, Mir-ʿAli Šir Navāʾi. This book offers contemporary historical information such as data on building activities in Herat and Khorasan (Storey, no. 1096; Szuppe, 1992, p. 50). In Transoxiana, an émigré from Timurid Herat, Zayn-al-Din Maḥmud b. ʿAbd-al-Jalil “Wāṣefi” (b. 890/1485), wrote a book of personal memoirs, the Badāyeʿ al-waqāyeʿ (ed. A. N. Boldyrev, Stalinabad, 1957; Moscow, 1961; repr., Tehran, 1971; Storey-Bregel, pp. 1123-27). Wāṣefi’s memoirs describe the end of the Timurid period in Khorasan. They offer a unique and fascinating eyewitness view of Herat society (Boldyrev, 1957; Subtelny; Szuppe, 1992, pp. 51-53; Pistoso; Rota; Szuppe, 1996a, pp. 156-58).

The most famous of all Timurid memoirs is certainly the Bābor-nāma (ed. E. Mano, Kyoto, 1995), also called Wāqeʿāt-e Bābori or Tozuk-e Bābori, written in Chaghatay during the years 926-37/1520-30 by Ẓahir-al-Din Moḥammad Bābor (r. 932-37/1526-30), founder of the Mughal dynasty (Storey-Bregel, pp. 828-38). Bābor gives an account of his intricate genealogical and kinship links and narrates his life and struggle for political power in Transoxiana, Khorasan, and India (all manuscripts contain a lacuna for the years 915-24/1509-18) (Dale, 1990). The book includes important geographical descriptions, and especially data on the topography of Samarkand and Herat. The Bābor-nāma has been translated into Persian many times since the early 16th century (list given in Storey-Bregel, pp. 835-38), as well as several European languages (tr. A. S. Beveridge, New Delhi, 1922; repr., 1979; for others, see the list in Storey-Bregel, pp. 833-34, to which must be added: tr. Wheeler M. Thackston, New York and Oxford, 1996, and tr. into French, J.-L. Bacqué-Grammont, Paris, 1985). The memoir genre was continued in India by Bābor’s own daughter, Golbadan Begom (q.v.), who wrote the Homāyun-nāma (ed. and tr. A. S. Beveridge, London, 1902; Delhi, 1974; Lahore, 1972; recent French tr., P. Piffaretti and J.-L. Bacqué-Grammont, Paris, 1996; and many others), a historico-biographical work of the imperial family dedicated to Homāyun b. Bābor (r. 937-47/1530-40 and 962-63/1555-56). In the Chaghatay realm, the second volume of the work by Bābor’s cousin, Mirzā Moḥammad-Ḥaydar Duḡlāt (d. 958/1551), completed in 953/1546 under the title Tāriḵ-e Rašidi (ed. and tr. W. M. Thackston, Cambridge, Mass., 1996; tr. E. Denison Ross, London, 1895, 1898, and multiple reprints; Russian tr. A. Urunbaev, R. P. Dzhalilova, and L. M. Epifanova, Tashkent, 1996), falls into the same category of historical memoirs that are related to the Timurid tradition (Storey-Bregel, pp. 1202-6). Finally, in 1047/1637-38 the post-Timurid milieu of the Mughal court produced a Persian translation of a supposed autobiographical account written or dictated in Chaghatay by Timur, the Malfuẓāt-e Teymuri and Tozuk-e Teymuri (list of European translations in Storey-Bregel, pp. 791; lith. ed., Bombay, 1880; ed. M. Minovi, Tehran, 1963; ed. and tr., Tashkent, 1996). This translation, by Moḥammad Afżal Boḵāri on Šāh-Jahān’s order, was a heavily revised version of an earlier translation by Abu Ṭāleb Ḥosayni also commissioned by Šāh-Jahān but dismissed as too different from the standard history based on the Ẓafar-nāma of Šaraf-al-Din ʿAli Yazdi. The modern discussion of the genuineness of the Malfuẓāt and Tozuk-e Teymuri has been complicated by the existence of two Persian versions (their manuscripts are not differentiated in Storey-Bregel, pp. 791 ff.), as well as of numerous secondary translations from Persian back into Chaghatay. Although today it is generally considered a fake, recent research has produced new arguments in favor of the originality of Abu Ṭāleb Ḥosayni’s translation, based on internal evidence of the comparison of manuscripts of the two Persian versions (Habib, pp. 305-9). Whichever way the controversy may be settled, the text will remain an important source for ideological developments of the Mughal state in relation to their Timurid origin.


Chronicles. Regional histories and descriptions of towns and localities seem to have been particularly frequent in Khorasan since the Samanid period (Rosenthal, 1968, pp. 160-66; Lambton, 1991; Meisami, pp. 9-10; Paul, 2000). In the Timurid period, local historiography achieved a great popularity and flourished to an unparalleled degree. Though the following centuries saw occasional works such as the Jāmeʿ-e Mofidi of Moḥammad-Mofid Mostawfi Yazdi (1090/1679), it is only from the 19th century onward that interest in local historiography became manifest again. In the 15th century, some universal chronicles included chapters on the topography of towns or regions (e.g., Faṣiḥ Aḥmad Ḵᵛāfi’s Mojmal-e fa-ṣiḥi, or Ḵᵛāndamir’s Ḵolāṣat al-aḵbār, see above). The Tāriḵ-e Ḥāfeẓ-e Abru (or Joḡrāfiā) is an important contribution to the topography of Khorasan in the early Timurid period (ed. Māyel Heravi, Tehran, 1970; ed. D. Krawulsky, Wiesbaden, 1982-84; ed. Ṣ. Sajjādi, Tehran, 1996-99). In the later Timurid period, Moʿin-al-Din Mo-ḥammad Zamči Esfezāri, a court official in the service of the vizier Qawām-al-Din Neẓām-al-Molk (d. 903/1498), dedicated to his patron a chronicle of Herat written in 899/1493-94, the Rawżat al-jannāt fi awṣāf madinat Herāt (ed. S. M. K. Emām, Tehran, 1959-60; Storey-Bregel, pp. 1045-48). Five initial chapters are devoted to the geography of Khorasan; others contain important information on the topography and the urban setting of Herat (Barbier de Meynard, 1860-62). An important history of Yazd was written ca. 845-50/1441-47 by Jaʿfar b. Mo-ḥammad al-Ḥosayni “Jaʿfari” with the title Tāriḵ-e Yazd (ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1960; 2nd ed. 1964-65), extending from the earliest times to the reign of Šāhroḵ (Storey-Bregel, pp. 1021-22). Jaʿfari’s history was followed by the Tāriḵ-e jadid-e Yazd (ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1966) of Aḥmad b. Ḥosayn b. ʿAli Kāteb, whose work, dated between 862/1458 and 872/1467 in Yazd, was entirely based on his predecessor’s, although it was composed under the new political regime of the Qarā Qoyunlu sultans (Storey-Bregel, pp. 1022-23).

Bio-geographical writings; pilgrimage guides. Timurid learned literature developed an original type of local historiographical writing, namely the pilgrimage guides describing the topography of the shrines (mazār) in one given geographical area, together with biographies of the saints buried there. Their origin could certainly be found in earlier traditional taḏkeras of pre-Mongol times that were partly devoted to recounting the lives of noble and saintly men, in Arabic (Paul, 2000, pp. 102-3), such as al-Qand fi maʿrefat ʿolamāʾ Samarqand by ʿOmar b. Moḥammad al-Nasafi (12th cent.) (ed. Y. al-Hādi, Tehran, 1999). The rare Fażāyel-e Balḵ (ed. ʿAbd-al-Ḥayy Ḥa-bibi, Tehran, 1971), describing the history, topography, and lives of important religious personalities of Balkh, is a Persian translation of an Arabic original of the early 13th century written by ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿOmar Balḵi. Although the Persian translation was apparently made by ʿAbd-Allāh Moḥammad b. Moḥammad Balḵi at the end of the 13th century, the only extant manuscript of this text dates to the end of the Timurid period (Storey-Bregel, pp. 1053-54; for the histories of Balkh, see the unpublished thesis by Ulrike Berndt cited by Paul, 2000, n. 46). Under the Timurids, this type of literature appeared on a larger scale and directly in Persian. It also frequently included guidelines and rules for performing local pilgrimage rites. Its popularity could be linked with the growing social influence of Sufi structures in Central Asia and Khorasan. For the first time, this literature is represented by Aḥmad b. Maḥmud “Moʿin-al-foqarā,” author of the Ketāb-e Mollā-zāda (lith. Bukhara-Kagan, 1322/1904-05; ed. A. Golčin Maʿāni, Tehran, 1960), written in Bukhara in the first half of the 15th century and describing the topography and history of mazārs of Bukhara and its surrounding area (Storey-Bregel, p. 1115). For Samarkand, the Qandiya-ye ḵurd or Kitāb al-Qand fi taʾriḵ Samarqand (ed. Mollā ʿAbd-al-Ḥakim Tājer, Samarkand 1327/1909; re-ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1955; partial Russian tr. V. L. Vyatkin in Spravochnaya knizhka samarkandskoĭ oblasti VIII, Samarkand, 1906, pp. 235-90) was most probably compiled during the later Timurid period (Storey-Bregel, pp. 1113-15; two versions are known). It is not, as previously thought, a simple translation into Persian of the above-mentioned Arabic al-Qand fi maʿrefat ʿolamāʾ Samarqand of al-Nasafi, although it is partly based on it. It contains original material dating back to the 10th century and including traditions referring to the pre-Islamic history of Samarkand, as well as data on the city’s topography and early Islamic history, and biographies of its saintly men extending up to the 15th and early 16th centuries (Weinberger; Paul, 1993).

For Herat, Aṣil-al-Din ʿAbd-Allāh b. ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān Ḥosayni “Wāʿeẓ” (d. 883/1478) compiled the Maqṣad al-eqbāl al-solṭāniya wa marṣad al-aʿmāl al-ḵāqāniya, also known as Mazārāt-e Herāt (ed. ʿAbd al-Karim Aḥ-rāri, Herat, 1931-32; ed. Fekri Saljuqi, Kabul, 1967; ed. Māyel Heravi, Tehran, 1972). The text was commissioned by the Timurid ruler Solṭān-Abu Saʿid (r. 855-73/1451-69; Storey-Bregel, pp. 1048-49; the Tashkent Biruni Institute ms. no. 9946 should be added to the list of mss.). Incorporating oral traditions for the contemporary or near-contemporary period, the work describes the celebrated shrines of Herat and its surroundings, and includes biographies of people buried there until 864/1459-60. A continuation of the Maqṣad al-eqbāl was written in the late 18th century by ʿObayd-Allāh b. Abu Saʿid Heravi (ed. Fekri Saljuqi, Kabul, 1967; ed. Māyel Heravi, Tehran, 1972, together with the original Maqṣad al-eqbāl). In Balkh, the rare Tāriḵ-e mazārāt-e Balḵ was written by Moḥammad-Ṣāleḥ b. Amir ʿAbd-Allāh b. Amir ʿAbd-al-Raḥmān in about 990/1582. The text, although very late, clearly belongs to the Timurid tradition; possibly the author is related to the author of the Maqṣad al-eqbāl (see above), though not necessarily his son (Storey-Bregel, p. 1053). In Samarkand, the 19th-century Samariya by Abu Ṭāher Ḵᵛāja (ed. Iraj Afšār, Tehran, 1955, based on S. Veselovskiĭ’s edition, St. Petersburg, 1904) is the best known among late pilgrimage guides describing the shrines of the city and rooted in the Timurid tradition (Paul, 1993, pp. 75-76, 80-81 and n. 32 for late Bukharan and Herat pilgrimage guides).



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İsmail Aka, Mirza Şahruh ve zamanı (1405-1447), Ankara, 1994.

B. A. Akhmedov, Istoriko-geograficheskaya literatura Sredneĭ Azii XVI-XVIII vv.: Pis’mennye pamyatniki, Tashkent, 1985.

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Idem, “Die Timuridische Historiographie: Šaraf al-Dīn ʿAlī Yazdi,” Studia Iranica 24, 1995, pp. 219-46.

Jean Aubin, “Le mécénat timouride à Chiraz,” Studia Islamica 3, 1957a, pp. 71-88.

Idem, ed. and introd., Extraits du Muntakhab al-Tavarikh-i Muʿini (Anonyme d’Iskandar), Tehran, 1957b.

Idem, “Chroniques persanes et relations italiennes. Notes sur les sources narratives du règne de Šāh Esmāʿil Ier,” Studia Iranica 24, 1995, pp. 247-59.

Charles Barbier de Meynard, “Extraits de la chronique persane d’Hérat, traduits et annotés par . . . ,” Journal Asiatique, 5e série, 16, 1860, pp. 461-520; 17, 1861, pp. 438-57, 473-522; 20, 1862, pp. 268-319.

V. V. Bartol’d, Sochineniya I: Turkestan v epokhu mongol’skogo nashestviya, Moscow, 1963; tr. as Turkestan down to the Mongol Invasion, Gibb Memorial Series N.S. 5, 2nd rev. ed., London, 1958.

Idem, Sochineniya VIII: Raboty po istochnikovedeniyu (Source studies), Moscow, 1973.

Michele Bernardini, “Il Timurnāme di Hātefi e lo Šāhnāme-ye Esmāʿil di Qāsemi (Il Ms. Frazer 87 della Bodleian Library di Oxford),” in M. Bernardini, ed., La civiltà timuride come fenomeno internazionale, special issue of Oriente Moderno, N.S. 76/2, Rome, 1996, I, pp. 97-118.

Idem, “The Historiography Concerning Timur-i Lang. A Bibliographical Survey,” in Samuela Pagani, ed., Italo-Uzbek Scientific Cooperation in Archeology and Islamic Studies. An Overview, Rome, 2003, pp. 137-96.

Nathaniel Bland, “On the earliest Persian Biography of Poets, by Muhammad Aufi, and on some other Works of the Class called Tazkirat ul Shuârâ,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society IX, 1848, pp. 111-76.

A. N. Boldyrev, Zaĭnuddin Vasifi, tadzhikskiĭ pisatel’ XVI v. (opyt tvorcheskoĭ biografii) (Z. Wāṣefi, Tajik writer of the 16th century: an essay on creative biography), Stalinabad, 1957.

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Stephen F. Dale, “Steppe Humanism: the Autobiographical Writings of Ẓahir al-Din Muḥammad Babur, 1483-1530,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 22/1, 1990, pp. 37-58.

János Eckman, “Die tschaghataische Literatur,” in Philologiae Turcicae Fundamenta, Wiesbaden, 1959-64, II, pp. 304-420.

Bert G. Fragner, Die Persophonie, Regio-nalität, Identität und Sprachkontakt in der Geschichte Asiens (ANOR, 5), Berlin and Halle, 1999. Aḥmad Golčin Maʿāni, Tāriḵ-e taḏkerahā-ye fārsi, Tehran, 2nd. ed., 1985.

Lisa Golombek and Maria E. Subtelny, eds., Timurid Art and Culture. Iran and Central Asia in the Fifteenth Century, Leiden, etc., 1992.

Irfan Habib, “Timur in the political tradition and historiography of Mughal India,” in M. Szuppe, ed., L’héritage timouride. Iran–Asie centrale–Inde, XVe–XVIIIe siècles, Cahiers d’Asie Centrale 3–4, Tashkent and Paris, 1997, pp. 297-312.

Walter Hinz, “Quellenstudien zur Geschichte der Timuriden,” ZDMG 90, 1936, pp. 357-98.

Istoriya uzbekskoĭ literatury s drevneĭshikh vremen do Velikoĭ Oktyabrskoĭ Sotsialisticheskoĭ Revolyutsii, (History of Uzbek literature from the earliest times to the October Revolution), 2 vols., Tashkent, 1987-89.

L. Ḵalilov, “Ališer Navoyining ‘Tariḵi muluki Ažam’ asarining qŭlyozma nusḵalari” (The manuscripts of ʿAli-Šir Na-vāʾi’s Tāriḵ-e moluk-e ʿAjam), in Navoyiḡa armuḡon, Tashkent, 1968, pp. 174-83.

Sigrid Kleinmichel, “Turks. III. Literature, 6(a) Čaghatay literature in Central Asia and Uzbek literature,” in EI2. A. K. S. Lambton, “Persian Biographical Literature,” in B. Lewis and P. M. Holt, eds., Historians of the Middle East, London, 1962, pp. 141-51.

Idem, “Early theories of the State: Ḥāfiẓ-i Abrū and Niẓām al-Dīn Šāmī,” Bulletin d’Études Orientales de l’Institut Français de Damas 30, 1978, pp. 1-9.

Idem, “Persian local histories,” in B. Scarcia Amoretti and L. Rostango, eds., Yād-nāma in memoria di Alessandro Bausani, Rome, 1991, pp. 227-38.

Beatrice Forbes Manz, “Family and Ruler in Timurid Historiography,” in Devin DeWeese, ed., Studies on Central Asian History in Honor of Yuri Bregel, Bloomington, Ind., 2001, pp. 57-78.

Julie Scott Meisami, Persian Historiography to the End of the Twelfth Century, Edinburgh, 1999.

N. D. Miklukho-Maklaĭ, “Redaktsii vseobshcheĭ istorii Khondemira (Khabib al-Siyar),” (Editions of Khvāndamir’s world history, Ḥabib al-siyar) in Pis’mennye pamyatniki i problemy istorii kul’tury narodov Vostoka, Leningrad, 1967, pp. 23-24.

A. M. Mirzoev, Kamal od-Din Binai, Moscow, 1976.

Jürgen Paul, “The Histories of Samarqand,” Studia Iranica 22, 1993, pp. 69-92.

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(Maria Szuppe)

Originally Published: December 15, 2003

Last Updated: March 22, 2012

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