This article shows that the management of water resources in Late Sasanian and Early Islamic Iraq (sixth to tenth centuries ad) implied the participation of local communities and the mutual cooperation of landholders. The organisation of water management in the Late Sasanian Period (sixth to seventh centuries) depended on a highly complex system of interaction between local communities, aristocratic rulers and the imperial bureaucracy. This interaction allowed the government to gather information from different regions of the empire and to understand the needs of the different stakeholders. As such, the system provided a favourable institutional framework for the expansion of irrigated agriculture. The system changed when landholding conditions were transformed in the Early Islamic period, during the ninth century. These institutional transformations allowed the influence of a group of tax-farmers and merchant-bankers to increase. Irrigation policies were therefore bent to the interests of these new elites, which often lay in short-term gains rather than in long-term success. The article suggests that, in the long run, these socio-economic and institutional changes contributed substantially to the breakdown of the agricultural system in Ancient Iraq.
The dry bed of the Nahrawan Canal near Samarra, photographed by Gertrude Bell in 1909
Friday, March 16, 2018
Property and water in Sasanian and early Islamic Iraq
Last August's Environment and History had an article by Michele Campopiano, "Cooperation and Private Enterprise in Water Management in Iraq: Continuity and Change between the Sasanian and Early Islamic Periods (Sixth to Tenth Centuries)". The article has a lot on the property system of the Sasanians and its relationship to water management. The abstract: