MØNA2507 – Gunpowder Empires: Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

Choose semester

Course content

What is today the Middle East, Balkans, Caucasus, Central Asia, Pakistan and India was long dominated by Islamic empires, who shared many cultural reference points, texts, technologies and techniques of ruling. In this course students learn about the main features of early modern Islamic empires, with an emphasis on the Ottomans, Safavids and Mughals.

While the Ottoman polity emerged in Anatolia in 1299, and rose to prominence in the fifteenth century, both the Safavids and Mughals came to power in Iran and northern India respectively in the early sixteenth century. Emphasising the interconnectedness of this part of the world, the circulation of scribes, intellectuals and artists, and also the war-making practices of these three polities, the course tries to give students a historical depth of understanding of the dynamism and flexibility of these Islamic polities before European hegemony.

Learning outcome

The primary objective of the course is to familiarise students with the main political and cultural features of early modern Islamic empires from the Balkans to Bengal, and to realise that they represent much more than a stagnant backwater waiting to be expanded upon by Europeans.

The secondary perspective is to provide students with a historical depth that can be used to contextualise contemporary legitimacy claims and the use of imperial history in political discussions. The course does this by providing students with in-depth knowledge of a rich Islamic tradition that shaped and brought together a wide geographic area – one that is markedly different from what is typically emphasised in courses on political Islam.

After having followed this course, you will have:

  • gained familiarity with the main developments and institutions of the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires
  • acquired a grasp of historiographical and social-scientific approaches for explaining the rise and fall of early modern Islamic empires
  • understand how these empires legitimised their rule
  • acquired the knowledge and tools you need to understand what ties these empires together historically, and to see contemporary politics in light of these commonalities


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

A good knowledge of English is recommended. 

Overlapping courses

The student is responsible for making sure that the course content does not overlap with other courses the student has already received credit for.


Lectures and seminars:

  • Lectures: 2 hours a week
  • Seminars: 3 seminars throughout the semester

The lectures will focus on giving an overview over the various aspects of the history and historiography of the three empires, while the seminars will be based on group discussions of selected readings from the syllabus. It is strongly recommended to attend all classes.

Compulsory activities

  • Compulsory attendance:
    • No less than 2 seminars
  • Two reflection papers

Information about the reflection papers and the deadlines will be given during class and in Canvas. You must submit the reflection papers within the given deadlines, and you are responsable for familiarizing yourself with the requirements for the compulsory activities.

Valid absence

If you have valid absence from the compulsory activities, you must submit an application and hand in documentation. 

This is how you apply for valid absence from compulsory activities/compulsory attendance.


4-hour sit down exam.

You must fulfill the requirements of compulsory activities in order to qualify for taking the exam.

Digital examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Examination support material

No examination support material is allowed.

Language of examination

You may write your examination paper in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish or English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Facts about this course






Every spring


Every spring

Teaching language