Institut für den Nahen und Mittleren Osten



The 17th Arabic Papyrology Webclass: "Merchants, Mules, and Misunderstandings: Commercial Letters on Papyrus and Paper" (Summer Term 2020)

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  • Though basically dealing with the exchange of goods and sums of money, commercial letters record communication that touches on various aspects: complaints about insufficient quality, strategies for achieving a higher price at the market, as well as advice to deputy traders about business in the addressee’s absence all appear in documents from 8th-16th century Egypt. We will explore different issues merchants faced, as well as get acquainted with the goods most commonly traded according to Arabic documentary texts
  • We will read unpublished documents and apply new ways to display their formal side best. And we will discuss recents scholarship.


  • This is an on-line webclass. Documents to be read and papers to be discussed will be made accessible in advance.
  • Communication will be in English.


  • Dr. Ursula Bsees, LMU Munich, Institute of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, co-director of the LMU Arabic Papyrology Research Group (


  • Monday, 7:00 - 9:00 PM (Central European Time); time might be changed, if all participants agree.
  • 20 April - 20 July 2020; no class on 1 June 2020.


  • A certificate of participation will be given if students have attended at least twelve meetings and if they have met the expectations as defined at the beginning of the semester.
  • The Arabic Papyrology Webclass forms part of the Webinar Initiative in Islamic Material Culture (


  • MA and PhD students in Arabic and in Near Eastern Studies; scholars interested in Arabic documents; persons in charge of Arabic manuscript collections, etc.


  • 250 Euro or an equivalent amount of working time. Fees are expected to be paid before the semester starts.
  • No fees for students of Near and Middle Eastern Studies at LMU Munich, Universität Bonn, Universität Hamburg, and New York University.

Technical issues

  • Students need a computer for downloading, Internet access, and a headset.
  • Technical problems arising during the semester that prevent students from attending the class are the students’ own responsibility; therefore, missed classes will not be substituted. However, if a technical event prevents all students from participating, the class will be substituted.
  • New participants will have a personal preparatory meeting to set up technical requirements.

Further information and registration

  • Please send an informal message to ursula.bsees at Give name, academic affiliation, current position and interest.
  • Register until 6 April 2020. The webclass usually fills up quickly.


  • Diem, Werner. 1995. Arabische Geschäftsbriefe des 10. bis 14. Jahrhunderts aus der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek in Wien. Documenta Arabica antiqua, vol. 1. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
  • Guo, Li. 2004. Commerce, Culture, and Community in a Red Sea Port in the Thirteenth Tentury: The Arabic Documents from Quseir. Islamic History and Civilization, vol. 52. Leiden: Brill.
  • Reinfandt, Lucian. 2007. "Leinenhändler im Herakleopolites in arabischer Zeit: P.Vindob. A.P. 15021 (PERF 576)." In BASP 44: 97–123.
  • Sijpesteijn, Petra M. 2004. "Travel and Trade on the River." In Papyrology and the History of Early Islamic Egypt, ed. Petra M. Sijpesteijn and Lennart Sundelin. Islamic History and Civilization, vol. 55. Leiden: Brill, 115–152.
  • Younes, Khaled M. 2013. "Textile Trade Between the Fayyūm and Fustāt in the IIIrd/IXthe Century According to the Banū ʿAbd al-Muʾmin Archive." In Documents et histoire: Islam, VIIe - XVIe siècle: actes des premières journées d'étude internationales École Pratique des Hautes Études, IVe Section Musée du Louvre, Département des Arts de l'Islam, Paris 16 et 17 mai 2008, ed. Anne Regourd. École Pratique des Hautes Études, IVe Section, Sciences Historiques et Philologiques 2, vol. 5. Geneva: Payot, 313–334.

Former webclasses

  • 1: Letters from Quṣayr (Fall Term 2007).
  • 2: Early Letters [from the Yale Collection] (Spring Term 2008).
  • 3: Arabic Contracts of Renting and Buying Real Estate (Fall Term 2008).
  • 4: Bilingual Greek and Arabic Documents, with Dr Raffaele Luiselli, Florence (Spring Term 2009).
  • 5: Petitions to and Letters from Mamluk Officials (Fall Term 2009).
  • 6: Authentification Procedures on Arabic Coins, Seals and Letters from Mamluk Officials, with Dr Lutz Ilisch, Tübingen (Spring Term 2010).
  • 7: Documentary Evidence on Childhood (Fall Term 2010).
  • 8: Lists, Registers, Accounts (Summer Term 2011).
  • 9: Documents from al-Andalus (Winter Term 2011/12).
  • 10: Documents from Edfu (Winter Term 2012/13).
  • 11: Documents from the Berlin Collection (Winter Term 2013/14).
  • 12: Documents on Rural Egypt (Summer Term).
  • 13: Petitions on Paper (Winter Term 2014/15).
  • 14: Documents on Marriage and Divorce (Winter Term/16).
  • 15: Papyrus Letters from Umayyad and Abbasid Egypt (Summer Term 2017).
  • 16: Arabic Documents Referring to Jerusalem (Summer Term 2018)