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Gypsies in the Medieval Islamic World

PDF The recorded history of gypsy communities in Europe begins with the arrival of the Roma in the fourteenth century, although genetic and linguistic evidence demonstrates that this group left northwest India sometime before the seventh. Remarkably, this leaves a 700-year unexplored void as the communities migrated across the Middle East.The main problem facing historians studying so-called gypsies and gypsy-like communities is a linguistic one - namely not knowing how to identify or recognise them in the medieval Arabic and Persian sources. Drawing on ground-breaking linguistic research, Kristina Richardson here demonstrates that the Banu Sasan - literally `from the tribe of Sasan' and commonly identified in scholarship as a fringe criminal gang or underworld brotherhood - should be less creatively imagined and viewed as an ordinary tribal confederation: the `missing' gypsy community. Having established this, Richardson fleshes out the existence of these communities across the medieval Middle East, touching on topics as diverse as their professions, their migration patterns, the art they left behind, the urban spaces they lived in and influenced, their daily life and their literature. Richardson's ground-breaking book will provide the foundation for future studies of the Romani in the period, in addition to revealing a great deal about the cities, communities, religions and cultures that they lived within as they moved and settled across the medieval Islamic world.

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