2021 PhD Scholarship: Slavery in the Pre-Modern Turko-Persian World
The University of St Andrews is pleased to offer a scholarship funded by St Leonard’s Postgraduate College, to support an exceptional student undertaking doctoral research in the following project:
Slavery is often considered to be one of the most characteristic institutions of the pre-modern Islamic world, yet the phenomenon there appears to subvert modern definitions and expectations of what slavery is. As well as slaves for domestic and economic purposes, states in the Islamic world tended to rely on armies of slave soldiers, who in fact constituted their military elite. In India and Egypt, these even founded dynasties, while elsewhere (for example, in the Ottoman empire) slave women had a vital role in dynastic reproduction, meaning many sultans were themselves partly of slave descent. Slavery in the Islamic world thus cannot be simply characterised as a form of human bondage, and the Islamic case provides important challenges to how we conceptualise slavery, and even how we define the nature of the institution.
However, studies of slavery in the pre-modern Islamic world have remained rather limited, concentrating largely on the phenomenon on slave soldiers, while less attention has been given to other forms of slavery. There has also been relatively little attempt to engage scholarship on slavery in the Islamic world with broader scholarly thought on forms of slavery or asymmetric dependency in other parts of the world, even Europe, meaning that the study of the phenomenon remains rather methodologically under-developed. Most seriously, there is a great geographical imbalance in studies of slavery, which have tended to concentrate on slavery in the Arab lands, in particular Egypt under the Mamluk dynasty, and the Ottoman empire. There is a dearth of studies dealing with slavery in the broader eastern Islamic world – Iran, Central Asia, and pre-Ottoman Anatolia, known as ‘the Turko-Persian world’, being regions dominated by a Turkish military elite but where Persian language and culture held sway. Yet these areas played a pivotal role in the development of Islamic culture more broadly, as well as in the trans-regional slave trade specifically. The lack of studies of slavery in these regions thus distorts our picture of the nature of the institution in the broader Islamic world.
Applications are invited from suitably qualified students looking to undertake doctoral research on slavery from the rise of Islam to c. 1700 in the Turko-Persian world, as defined here (Iran, Central Asia and pre-Ottoman Anatolia).
Owing to the dearth of existing studies, and the fact that the precise languages required will vary according to the source material to be engaged with, research proposals are invited which engage with some of the following questions with reference to a specific time and place in the Turko-Persian world corresponding to the applicant’s interests:
- What role did slaves play in political, economic and military life in Turko-Persia?
- What role did slavery play among the nomadic groups that proliferated across the region?
- Which peoples were enslaved, and how?
- How did the slave trade function, and how did it relate to broader economic structures?
- Did slavery in Turko-Persia have any distinctive features compared to other parts of the Islamic world?
The student will engage with primary source materials such as chronicles, waqf (endowment) records and literary texts, and applicants must have a reading knowledge of Persian and/or another relevant language (e.g. Arabic, Turkish). In addition, the student will be expected to integrate their research with scholarship on slavery and asymmetrical dependency beyond the Islamic world, which the collaboration which the University of Bonn Research Cluster “Beyond Slavery and Freedom” will facilitate.
The scholarship will support a co-tutelle doctoral degree programme between the School of History at St Andrews and the University of Bonn in Germany. The student will be supervised by Professor Andrew Peacock (University of St Andrews) and Professor Stephan Conermann (University of Bonn).
Informal enquiries regarding this scholarship may be addressed to Professor Andrew Peacock – email [email protected].
Domicile for fee status
Level of study
Postgraduate Research (Doctoral)
Year of entry
2021-2022 academic year
The student can start their degree in August 2021, September 2021, October 2021, or January 2022.
School of History
Applicants must not already (i) hold a doctoral degree; or (ii) be matriculated for a doctoral degree at the University of St Andrews or another institution.
Duration of award
Up to 3 years. The student will be expected to spend approximately half of the award term at the University of St Andrews and half at the University of Bonn. The successful candidate will be expected to have completed the doctorate degree by the end of the award term. The award term excludes the continuation period and any extension periods.
Value of award
The award covers full tuition fees for the period of time spent at the University of St Andrews. For this period, the student will also receive a stipend payable at the standard UK Research council rate (the 2021-22 annual rate is £15,560).
For the period spent at the University of Bonn no tuition fees will be due and the student will receive maintenance award.
Tuition or maintenance award
Tuition and maintenance.
Doctoral Research at St Andrews
As a doctoral student at the University of St Andrews you will be part of a growing, vibrant, and intellectually stimulating postgraduate community. St Andrews is one of the leading research-intensive universities in the world and offers a postgraduate experience of remarkable richness.
St Leonard’s Postgraduate College is at the heart of the postgraduate community of St Andrews. The College supports all postgraduates and aims to provide opportunities for postgraduates to come together, socially and intellectually, and make new connections.
St Leonard’s Postgraduate College works closely with the Postgraduate Society which is one of the most active societies within the Students’ Association. All doctoral students are automatically welcomed into the Postgraduate Society when they join the University.
In addition to the research training that doctoral students complete in their home School, doctoral students at St Andrews have access to GRADskills – a free, comprehensive training programme to support their academic, professional, and personal development.
Apply for admission as a doctoral student – please see the advice on applying for research degree programmes.
Please indicate in your application that you wish to be considered for this Global St Andrews scholarship (reference Peacock)
Please contact us should you have any questions regarding the scholarship: [email protected]
When do applications open?
Scholarship application deadline
31 January 2021
When will I hear if my application has been successful?
Within two months of the application deadline. Awards are subject to final signatures between the parties.