The two parts on medieval Herat in fact belong closely together, and together, they form a very substantial contribution to the medieval history of Herat from the Arab conquest to the foundation of the Durrani Afghan Empire around 1720. The first part details the political history of the city, with a focus on dynastic change (who were the rulers of the city at a given moment, and what was the position of Herat in the larger realm it formed a part of?) with some side remarks on religious affairs (Christians and Zoroastrians were still present in the region when the “Arab geographers” were writing). After a section on the Arab conquest (and Herat in the framework of the Umayyad, then Abbasid Caliphate), a section on the “local dynasties in Herat” follows. These are not dynasties centred on Herat which became capital to a larger state only with the Kartid rulers in the Mongol period, but the well-known regional states of Eastern Iran, beginning with the Tahirids, with the Ghaffarids and the Samanids following, and so on until the Ghurids who were defeated by the Mongols. Ample documentation is quoted for every siege and every conquest, and the events taking place around Herat are duly contextualized within the larger framework of dynastic politics of Eastern Iran and Central Asia. The article also devotes special attention to the construction, destruction and re-construction of the city walls. For the Mongol conquest, the population numbers of Herat and its region (which must be taken together, particularly in times of siege) and the numbers of soldiers that the region could field are discussed at some length with a figure of ca. 2 million emerging as the general statement of the sources. Such figures were not reached in later periods, and the effects of the large-scale killings of the Mongol period and the subsequent disorders must have been made themselves felt for centuries. The rise of the city to a metropolis of world-wide importance was prepared by the Kartid rulers in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This is quite apparent from the article, and therefore the statement (208b) “Herat recovered only in the fifteenth century under the Timurids” seems too strong.
The following section on “Post-Mongol Herat, from the Karts to the Safavids” takes care of the period(s) of splendour. The Karts (“the period of their rule remains understudied,” 209a) receive due attention and are not treated as a mere prelude to the Timurids. Among those, one ruler is missing: Abu’l-Qasim Babur (1449-1457); Abu Sa‘id took over in Herat only after Abu’l-Qasim’s death and after a prolonged succession struggle (last days of 1458; cf. Jürgen Paul, “Wehrhafte Städter: Belagerungen von Herat, 1448-1468,” Asiatische Studien / Etudes asiatiques 58/1 (2004): 163-193). The city notables are first mentioned in the context of the early sixteenth century, when they surrendered the town to the Shaybanid conquerors without fight. It is a pity that they are not mentioned earlier: The city of Herat was no mere object of power politics, of wars waged between empires and regional dynasties. Like in other cities in Khurasan (and elsewhere), city dwellers, and above all the notables, took a very active part in its destiny. The second part of the article, on topography, is a very welcome contribution. It gives an outline of the physical shape of the city, and it is accompanied by a very useful map (there is no scale to it, though). The author could make use of Terry Allen’s research on Timurid Herat and has developed it further, including earlier and later periods. The text shows how intimately the city was living with its citadel, and how mutually distant yet both realms were. There also is a discussion on the question of the square town (Mediterranean influences are discussed). An impressive bibliography is added at the end.