The phenomenon of dynasties of jewish doctors in the Mamluk period (1250–1517)

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This article discusses the phenomenon of dynasties of Jewish physicians in the Late Middle Ages in Egypt and Syria. Based on Muslim Arabic historiographical literature on the one hand, and Jewish sources such as Genizah documents on the other, this paper reconstructs fourteen dynasties of Jewish physicians that were active in the Mamluk Sultanate (1250–1517). Examination of the families reveals that the most distinguished dynasties of court physicians were of Jewish origin, and had to convert to Islam during the Mamluk period. Moreover, the office of the “Head of the Physicians” was occupied mainly by members of these convert Jewish dynasties. This situation stands in stark contrast to the pre-Mamluk period, in which dynasties of unconverted Jewish court physicians flourished. However, Jewish sources reveal that dynasties of doctors who were also communal leaders continued to be active also during the Mamluk period.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalEuropean Journal of Jewish Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2020


  • Conversion
  • Egypt
  • Genizah
  • Maimonides
  • Mamluks
  • Physicians
  • Syria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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