Weekly Dreg: I love Mongol stories. The always delightful Suleiman Mourad recorded an anecdote in a forthcoming chapter in which a historian doomed the last Abbasid caliph, al-Mustasim, because he was unwilling to fudge the historical record. I'm not entirely sure if this is a victory for scholarly integrity, but it's a fun read either way:
"When Hülegü captured Baghdad and wanted to kill caliph Abū Aḥmad ʿAbd Allāh al-Mustaʿṣim, someone told him that if the caliph is killed, the entire universe will lose its balance, the sun will not rise, the rain will not fall and the plants will not grow. He hesitated, and then asked a scholar about the matter. The scholar was very honest in his reply: “ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib was much better than this caliph by the admission of everyone in the world. He was killed and these things did not occur. Likewise al-Ḥusayn, and even the ancestors of this caliph, they were horribly killed and neither the sun failed to rise nor the rain stopped.” When Hülegü heard that, his hesitation was gone."
Books and Publications
Famine Worlds: Life at the Edge of Suffering in Lebanon's Great War will be published with Stanford University Press in August of 2023. In it, I examine the complexity of life in times of crisis, focusing on the horrific famine that devastated Lebanon during World War I. Ultimately, Famine Worlds seeks to understand the human experience of crisis, going beyond simple death tolls to find how people lived and adapted to a world that had been transformed by insuperable catastrophe into something terrible and new.
"Some Eat to Remember, Some to Forget: Starving, Eating, and Coping in the Lebanese Famine of World War I," Presented at the conference Insatiable Appetite: Food as a Cultural Signifier in the Middle East and Beyond, hosted by the American University of Beirut in 2017