Private Documents as a Source for Regional History: The Archive of the ʿAbrīyīn of Al-Ḥamrāʾ

  • Michaela Hoffmann-RufEmail author
Part of the United Nations University Series on Regionalism book series (UNSR, volume 6)


The letters in the archive of the ʿAbrīyīn sheikhs of al-Ḥamrāʾ tell of the everyday life of a rural Omani community and reflect the interactions of this community’s members on a local and regional level. They throw new light on traditional interpretations and convictions, which qualitatively broadens the scope of existing macro-historical accounts. This holds especially true with regard to the role of the tribal leaders, the sheikhs, who used to be central persons in the political, social and economic spheres of their respective communities. The function of the letters with regard to a sheikh’s role is manifold, ranging from a substitute for personal meetings to the transmission of various kinds of information that help the sheikh to maintain and stabilize his political influence and position.

There are several spatial aspects reflected in the letters from al-Ḥamrāʾ. One of them is the actual geographic range of the contacts; another is that of the tribal territory (dār). The letters show that these spatial structures are created by the people involved, by their perspectives and needs. Accordingly, these structures show variations dependant on time, place and not at least on actor, a fact that the differences in the quantity and durability of the correspondences clearly illustrate. Reading the letters reveals clearly that the “landscape” of al-Ḥamrāʾ formed a historical and symbolic space that was structured through people’s ideas and actions.


Spatial Aspect Tribal Grouping Personal Ability Symbolic Space Traditional Interpretation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.IOA, Abt. für IslamwissenschaftRheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität BonnBonnGermany

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