The Nile: its role in the fortunes and misfortunes of the Fatimid dynasty during its rule of Egypt (969-1171)

Cortese, Delia ORCID: (2015) The Nile: its role in the fortunes and misfortunes of the Fatimid dynasty during its rule of Egypt (969-1171). History Compass, 13 (1) . pp. 20-29. ISSN 1478-0542 [Article] (doi:10.1111/hic3.12210)

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The epoch spanning the years 935-1094 constitutes - on the whole - the longest and driest period on record in the history of the Nile. A stretch of relatively normal discharge followed this phase, only for dryness to return. The reasons of this dry-wet-dry phenomenon have been recently appraised in the context of global climatic changes – the so-called “Medieval Warm Period” - that affected most of the known world between the 11th and the 13th centuries. It was in this period of Egyptian history that the Shi‘i Isma‘ili Fatimids replaced the Sunni Ikhshidids as rulers in 358/969 and, with alternating fortunes, continued to reign until 567/1171.
In this paper, I examine how, faced with the convergence of extraordinary geo-climatic factors, the Fatimids managed (and mismanaged) the Nile and its valley. I contend that the imperial aspirations of the Fatimids in Cairo and beyond were in many ways subject to the typical unpredictability of the natural cycles of the river, hence the Fatimids’ success and failure in managing the varied economic, political and trading activities that took place along the Egyptian section of the Nile valley. A case in point highlighted here will be the Fatimids’ privileging of flax cultivation over wheat.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > Perspectives in Religion group
Item ID: 14012
Notes on copyright: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Cortese, D. ( 2015) The Nile: Its Role in the Fortunes and Misfortunes of the Fatimid Dynasty During its Rule of Egypt (969–1171), History Compass, 13, pages 20– 29. doi: 10.1111/hic3.12210., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions
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Depositing User: Delia Cortese
Date Deposited: 12 Dec 2014 15:03
Last Modified: 10 Jun 2021 04:01

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