Medieval Christian Nubia and the Islamic World: A Reconsideration of the Baqt Treaty

The decisive victory of the northern Nubian kingdom of Makuria over the Arab invasion of 652 allowed it to conduct subsequent diplomatic and economic relations with the Islamic world according to its own distinctively Nubian tradition of royal exchange. These customary usages, which outsiders called the ‘baqt’, were never committed to writing nor had they any fixed content other than the principles of Nubian royal initiative in the conduct of each exchange and the anticipation of reciprocity in kind on the part of the recipient Islamic prince. Islamic historiography found the Christian Nubian defeat of God’s holy warriors difficult to accept. Islamic scholars began to formulate a more tolerable interpretation of history, according to which the propensity of Makurian kings periodically to send shipments of valuable goods to Egypt could be interpreted not as the initiation of a reciprocal royal exchange, but as a unilateral and allegedly obligatory annual tribute. Modern Orientalist scholarship has chosen to subordinate all other historical evidence about the ‘baqt’ to this Islamic revisionist interpretation. The present study offers a historiographical critique of the received understanding of the ‘baqt’, and proposes an alternative contextual frame. Notes, ref.

Title: Medieval Christian Nubia and the Islamic World: A Reconsideration of the Baqt Treaty
Author: Spaulding, Jay
Year: 1995
Periodical: International Journal of African Historical Studies
Volume: 28
Issue: 3
Pages: 577-594
Language: English
Geographic terms: Egypt
Sudan
External link: https://www.jstor.org/stable/221175
Abstract: The decisive victory of the northern Nubian kingdom of Makuria over the Arab invasion of 652 allowed it to conduct subsequent diplomatic and economic relations with the Islamic world according to its own distinctively Nubian tradition of royal exchange. These customary usages, which outsiders called the ‘baqt’, were never committed to writing nor had they any fixed content other than the principles of Nubian royal initiative in the conduct of each exchange and the anticipation of reciprocity in kind on the part of the recipient Islamic prince. Islamic historiography found the Christian Nubian defeat of God’s holy warriors difficult to accept. Islamic scholars began to formulate a more tolerable interpretation of history, according to which the propensity of Makurian kings periodically to send shipments of valuable goods to Egypt could be interpreted not as the initiation of a reciprocal royal exchange, but as a unilateral and allegedly obligatory annual tribute. Modern Orientalist scholarship has chosen to subordinate all other historical evidence about the ‘baqt’ to this Islamic revisionist interpretation. The present study offers a historiographical critique of the received understanding of the ‘baqt’, and proposes an alternative contextual frame. Notes, ref.