Commerce, empire and faith in Safavid Iran : the caravanserai of Isfahan

Bryce, Derek and O'Gorman, Kevin and Baxter, Ian (2013) Commerce, empire and faith in Safavid Iran : the caravanserai of Isfahan. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 25 (2). pp. 204-226. ISSN 0959-6119

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Abstract

To explore how commercial hospitality has contributed to the development of urban areas in relation to commerce, hospitality, religious and imperial patronage in early modern, Safavid Iran (c. 17th Century). To combine material culture research methods in an analytical framework for future use. Data was collected during 27 site visits over three years to fourteen caravanserai six bazaar complexes. A material culture methodology is proposed, designed and implemented, supplemented by analysis of textual sources. The form and function of caravanserai at Zein-i Edin broadly reflect the form and function of desert caravanserai common in much of the Islamic world. However, the complex within the Qaysariyya Bazaar in Isfahan reflects the convergence of specific dynastic, geopolitical and economic issues facing 17th century Safavid Iran shaping both urban form and commercial focus. These are consolidation of the Safavid dynasty, rivalry with the Ottoman Empire and the vital importance of trade with Mughal India. The research is limited by its specific contextual scope but invites further investigation in analogous contexts across this milieu as well as further implementation of the material culture methods it adopts to both historical and contemporary commercial contexts. Explores, for the first time the development of commercial hospitality in early modern Iran and invites further consideration of the development of capitalism outside of Eurocentric teleologies. Furthermore, it presents a new and explicit methodological framework for using material culture as a means of enquiry.