Robert D. McChesney will be the Central Asia Visiting Professor in February-March 2017

Robert D. McChesney will be the Central Asia Visiting Professor in February-March 2017. Professor McChesney will deliver a guest lecture on 28 February and a master class on 6 March within the Central Asia Initiative at Leiden University.

Robert D. McChesney

Robert D. McChesney, Emeritus Professor, New York University, is the author of Waqf in Central Asia (1991), Central Asia: Foundations of Change (1996), Kabul Under Siege (1999), and numerous articles and book chapters. He is also the founder and director of the Afghanistan Digital Library. His most recent work is The History of Afghanistan  Fayż Muḥammad Kātib Hazārah’s Sirāj al-tawārīkh published by Brill.

28 February Lecture: An Afghan Prince at Queen Victoria’s Court

In 1895, at the invitation of the Government of India, the Afghan amir, fiAbd al-Rahman Khan, sent his second son, Nasr Allah Khan, to London to meet Queen Victoria. The trip was founded on misunderstandings on both sides. The amir seemed to believe that the queen wielded arbitrary power comparable to his own and if only he could communicate with her through his son she would permit Afghanistan to establish direct diplomatic relations with the throne in place of being held thrall to the Government of India. The English, for their part, believed in issuing the invitation they were only extending a courtesy similar to what had been extended on three occasions to Nasir al-Din Shah, the Qajar ruler of Iran. They also assumed that the prince would be an appreciative audience for displays of British culture, industry, and military might.

The prince’s trip has already been recounted from one perspective, extensive English newspaper coverage of the visit but new and untapped Afghan sources provide a more intimate perspective on what the prince experienced as well as how it affected him during the rest of his life. He was hosted in London by the rakish Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, endured numerous exhibitions and banquets mounted in his honor, and managed to far overstay his welcome. After a circuit of the country taking him to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and Leeds and then under some pressure from the English to go home, he traveled to Paris and Naples before departing by ship from Marseille.

Both Afghan and British hopes from the trip were considerably reduced by its end. On the Afghan side, the inability of the prince to make any headway with the queen on establishing an Afghan embassy proved a major disappointment although pride was taken in the prince’s dignified deportment and the favorable English press coverage that he received. For the English, expectations of anything good coming out of the trip, already lowered by the failure to persuade the amir himself to make the trip, were further diminished by the prince’s reluctance to leave after a decent interval and the considerable expense of maintaining him and his large entourage.

Notwithstanding the slights felt on both sides, the tour left a very strong impression on the prince and influenced the rest of his life in unexpected ways.

13.15-15.00 hrs

Lipsius Building
Room 148
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

Followed by drinks at the Faculty Club kindly organized by Brill. All welcome!

6 March Master class: Reconstructing Urban Landscapes from Texts: Prospects and Problems

The master class on "Reconstructing Urban Landscapes from Texts: Prospects and Problems" is open to MA/MA research and PhD students. 

1) Robert D. McChesney, "Economic and Social Aspects of the Public Architecture of Bukhara in the 1560s and 1570s'." Islamic Art, vol. 2, 1987, pp. 217-237.

2) Robert D. McChesney, "Four Sources on Shah 'Abbas's Building of Isfahan." Muqarnas, vol. 5, pp. 103-134 and the "Postscript" to it in Muqarnas, vol. 6, pp. 137-138. 

3) Robert D. McChesney, “Reconstructing Balkh: the Vaqfiya of 947/1540.” In Devin DeWeese, ed., Studies on Central Asian History in Honor of Yuri Bregel, Bloomington: Indiana University, 2001, pp. 187-243.

4) Robert D. McChesney, “The Lives and meanings of a sixteenth-century Bukharan notarial document.” In Écrit et Culture en Asie Centrale et dans le Monde TurcoIranien Xe -XIXe Siècles, ed. Francis Richard et Maria Szuppe, Paris, 2009, pp. 195- 227.

5) Thomas Welsford, “The Rabbit, the Duck, and the Study of Central Asian Legal Documents.” Der Islam, vol. 88, pp. 258-278.

6) translated selections from Mutribi, Nuskhah-i ziba-yi Jahangiri, Maliha, Muzakkir al-Ashab, Mahmud b. Amir Wali, Bahr al-asrar.

1) Robert D. McChesney, “Bukhara’s Suburban Villages: Juzmandun in the Sixteenth Century.” In Attilio Petruccioli, ed., Bukhara: The Myth and the Architecture, Cambridge, Mass., 1999, pp. 93-119.

2) Florian Schwarz, “Bukhara and Its Hinterland: The Oasis of Bukhara in the Light of the Juybari Codex.” In Attilio Petruccioli, ed., Bukhara: The Myth and the Architecture, Cambridge, Mass., 1999, pp. 79-92. 

If you would like to attend and receive copies of the readings, please contact Elena Paskaleva at: before 4 March 2017.

13.15-16.30 hrs

Matthias de Vrieshof 2, Room 6B
2311 BZ Leiden

Last Modified: 13-02-2017