Logo: HIMME written in Monumental Kufic
Historical Index of the Medieval Middle East

The Historical Index of the Medieval Middle East (HIMME) will be a reference work to expand both scholarly and educated public understanding of a critical period of human history. HIMME will provide search and browse interfaces for accessing tens of thousands of entries about medieval Middle Eastern people, places, and cultural practices (such as Qur’an recitation ceremonies, marriage, or tax collection). The scale of the data collected so far is indicated in the following table:

% categorized# persons# places# practices
Ibn BaṭṭūṭaArabicYes93%>1600>1100~250
Michael the SyrianSyriacYes100%245717064
Armenian colophonsArmenianYes100%931505124
Yāqūt al-ḤamawīArabicNo100%12,06514,8690
TOTALS *415,000-17,50015,000-16,500250-400

* Note that the numbers in the last three columns cannot simply be added to arrive at a total, because some persons and many places occur in more than one, even several, sources. For example, Baghdad is mentioned in all these sources.

Sample Entries

There will be tens of thousands of entries (see table above), but before being published, more data will be collected, and the data must be verified and transformed into the proper format. At present, there are five sample entries available (three persons and two places):


The first entry is minimal: a single reference to an obscure religious scholar. This indicates how HIMME would allow someone researching female ḥadīth transmitters to find a reference in an unexpected source. The entry for Osman I is a basic entry, demonstrating how this important political figure is discussed in sources in three languages. The entry for ʿAlī reveals HIMME’s potential for allowing scholars to consider how images of this foundational Islamic figure changed over time, even in Christian sources.


The person entries and Jazīrat Ibn ʿUmar indicate what an entry will look like using only the data already collected. Jazīrat Ibn ʿUmar was a small but strategic town on the Tigris River, inhabited in the medieval period by Arabs, Armenians, and Syriacs. The entry for Mosul is a bit more elaborate, showing what a record might look like when the data already collected is augmented by user submissions.

What will HIMME be?

HIMME will provide a synthetic reference work identifying sources referring to particular people, places, and practices (such as jizya, the poll-tax paid by non-Muslims under Islamic rule). Its temporal scope is from 600 to 1550, and its geographical scope from Constantinople and Cairo in the west to Samarqand in the east, from Yemen in the south to the Caucasus in the north. Each entry will correspond to an individual person, place, or social practice, and will list the references to that entity gathered so far. Rather than restricting its attention to sources in Arabic or any other single language, it will deliberately incorporate sources from as many languages as possible. The project is a work in progress, publishing its citations as they are collected, rather than waiting to publish an authoritative “final” reference work. Instead, HIMME will grow over time, becoming steadily more useful as it incorporates the references from additional sources.

Questions can be directed to the Principal Investigator, Thomas A. Carlson.

HIMME logo: Monumental Kufic