New at Brill in Open Access: Encyclopædia Iranica Online


Encyclopaedia Iranica is the most renowned reference work in the field of Iran studies. Founded by the late Professor Ehsan Yarshater and edited at the Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University, this monumental international project brings together the scholarship about Iran of thousands of authors around the world.




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Encyclopædia Iranica Online Now Freely Accessible at Brill

The Ehsan Yarshater Center for Iranian Studies at Columbia University, New York, and Brill are delighted to announce that the Encyclopædia Iranica Online is now freely accessible at Brill’s Reference Works Platform. Encyclopædia Iranica is the comprehensive academic reference work dedicated to the study of Iranian civilization in the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Indian subcontinent.

Ancient Iran Series Added to Brill’s Publishing Portfolio

As part of their growing portfolio in Middle East and Islamic Studies, Brill has signed an agreement for the take-over of the book series Ancient Iran Series. With its coverage of ancient, pre-, and early-Islamic Iran, this book series complements other book series with a more modern focus on this geographical area, as well as the various other journals and encyclopaedias Brill publishes in this field.

Read an interview with Geert Jan van Gelder

The longstanding series Handbook of Oriental Studies. Section 1: The Near and Middle East recently reached its 150th volume by publishing the special Prominent Murder Victims of the Pre- and Early Islamic Periods Including the Names of Murdered Poets. We caught up with Geert Jan van Gelder, editor and translator of the volume.


Acquisitions Editors


Maurits van den Boogert

Nicolette van der Hoek

Abdurraouf Oueslati

Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Jehona Kicaj

Middle East and Islamic Studies

During the year, a variety of local, sub-regional, continental and global events gave off different signals. At times, there were indications of measurable achievements in terms of advancing African interests, but there were, in contrast, also setbacks. Inadequate performance continued to be the hallmark of many African economies, while conflicts still raged in many sub-regions, notably Central and West Africa and Sudan's western province of Darfur. Sub-Saharan Africa remained overall the least developed and most impoverished region in the world, though initiatives to overcome the constraints and address the challenges were apparent.

Despite continued positive economic growth rates for most economies, capital flight, poverty and inequality remained serious problems. The despair of ordinary people was evident in the growing number of migrants seeking to enter Europe at the risk of their lives. Although the AU celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding, the continental body remained unable to solve regional violent conflicts. The most serious military confrontations occurred in Mali, the CAR, the DRC and South Sudan, while other conflict zones – mainly in West and Central Africa – remained volatile. Elections in Kenya, Zimbabwe and Mali reduced the risk that ongoing conflicts would escalate further and in Madagascar paved the way back to legitimate governance. Elections in Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania and Swaziland hardly deserved to be called democratic. Boko Haram increased its terrorist activities, but piracy along the coasts in the West and the East declined. Natural disasters and diseases affected fewer people than in previous years; in particular, there was a decline in new HIV/AIDS infections, and mortality rates signalled a positive trend.

The continent made international headlines during the year with the outbreak of the Ebola virus epidemic and its devastating consequences for some West African countries, as well as the international implications of its potential wider spread and the consequent precautionary measures. The epidemic was brought under control towards the end of the year. Boko Haram added to the negative publicity about the region, with the spectacular abduction of 276 schoolgirls in mid-April, most of whom remained captive for the rest of the year. In terms of political stability, no decisive shifts took place despite peaceful changes of government in a few cases and efforts to seize power through violence in some other states. Eleven countries held national elections with the usually mixed bag of either more or less legitimate results. The au maintained its critical stance vis-à-vis the icc and also increased its flexibility towards heads of state with dubious claims to hold office. Extending presidential mandates remained a temptation for sitting presidents. Economic performance was on average slightly below the levels forecast and, despite frequent reference to a growing middle class, poverty remained a major socioeconomic challenge. Sustained interest in the continent’s resources meant that foreign economic actors continued to increase their presence. China, India and Japan were among the countries seeking to further expand economic relations on the continent. While acts of piracy almost ceased along the Indian Ocean coast, a growing number of ships were hijacked in the Gulf of Guinea and along the west coast further south, with the pirates displaying an unexpected degree of sophistication in looting the cargos.

The worldwide fall in demand for primary commodities and the rapid drop in oil prices impacted on the resource-based economies in ssa. Some of the bigger economies (Nigeria, Angola, South Africa) and some of the most oil-dependent states (Chad, Equatorial Guinea) were most affected, though economic growth continued on a modest scale for many countries, not least thanks to more diversified economic relations with the new global players. In terms of continental governance, Agenda 2063 set a new programmatic agenda for the au, while the controversies around the icc remained a topical issue. The aprm stagnated further and restrictions limiting the activities of civil society remained common practice by governments. There were elections in 14 states, with some modest overall democratic gains and a reduction in military conflicts. Presidential term limits remained a contested issue. The negative effects of climate change were evident in the deterioration of the natural environment and remained a matter of concern, as did the issue of migration. The effects of the strongest-ever recorded El Niño resulted in an increase in food insecurity, especially in Southern Africa.

World market-related shocks, alongside domestic failures, were among the factors contributing to sluggish economic growth in most countries. Illicit capital outflows continued at a high level and illegal transfers of money added to the financial woes caused by generally low gdp growth. Climate change and related environmental degradation were other factors that had a mainly negative impact, exacerbating natural disasters and also contributing to ongoing migration. Terrorist activities and other violent conflicts, mainly in parts of West, Central and East Africa, contributed to the fragility of political situations and internal displacement. Peacekeeping missions in conflict zones continued with mixed results. Presidential elections were held in 17 countries and parliamentary elections in eight, resulting in some cases in a change of government and in others to power being retained by undemocratic means. A general trend towards erosion of the freedom of the media was visible, while the aprm was reactivated.

Politics were not boring this year, with three long-standing leaders leaving the stage: in the Gambia, President Yahya Jammeh initially refused to vacate the presidency after losing the elections. Concerted efforts on the part of ecowas and in particular Senegal forced him in January to leave the country. Angola’s President Eduardo dos Santos, after 38 years in power, made way in August for a successor of his choice, who introduced some unexpected corrective measures. Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, in power since Independence in 1980, was unceremoniously dismissed in November in an intervention by the military. While the army decided his replacement, the generals remained in denial of all evidence that this was a coup. In contrast, the change in chairing the au Commission took place according to plan with no surprises.

Despite some notable improvements in infrastructure, overall economic performance in ssa remained relatively sluggish in comparison to other regions of the world, even though the Chinese offensive in terms of economic support – also through loans – continued. The apparent geostrategic motivation for financing the infrastructural support was criticised by the United States. Suspicions that the au headquarters, built by China as a donation, was under Chinese surveillance did not harm the positive ties. Institutional reform of the au remained a challenge, not least because of member states being unreliable in paying their contributions, while the aprm maintained some new momentum. Democratic performance was again mixed, with electoral violence, manipulation, and disputed election results continuing features. Some of the autocratic regimes put to vote during the year managed to remain in power, while political transitions through elections took place in some other countries. For the first time for more than a decade, not a single violent or unconstitutional overthrow of government was recorded. However, internal conflicts, as well as the effects of climate change, continued to affect the living conditions of a growing number of people negatively.

Some global trends affected sub-Saharan Africa, but not homogeneously: while economic growth was back in most parts of Eastern and some parts of West Africa, both Southern and Central African economies continued to suffer in their majority from conditions on the world market for their main export products and also from homemade problems. The global trend of a relapse in democracy was observable in Africa when looking into the different indices on offer. However, the spectacular removal of an age-old authoritarian regime like the one in Sudan worked against this trend. The zones of armed conflict remained more or less the same, with the entire Sahel from Mali in the west to Sudan in the east and further to the Horn, plus most of Central Africa, remaining affected by instances of protracted violence. Despite some adjustments and decisions to limit troop numbers, all substantial peace operations continued to exist. Finally, the au could claim greater prominence and visibility than in past years, be it in the fields of free trade, diplomacy, or its aprm instrument – much more than most sub-regional organisations, which frequently looked underfunded and exposed to rivalries between member states. Natural and anthropogenic disasters once again did not spare the African continent, this year particularly in the form of floods, locusts, and epidemic diseases.

The election of Africa's first female head of state (in Liberia) and the rather successful conclusion of the Burundian transition process were among the most remarkable positive developments during the year. On average, the economic performance was somewhat more stable than in preceding years, without fundamentally changing the generally bleak situation. The realisation of MDGs remained a remote goal, despite all the talk of (and some action on) increased aid and debt cancellation. Outside intervention through peacekeeping missions and new aid initiatives made headlines in both the European and African media. Africa attracted new interest from China and India due to its natural resources, from the US due to perceived security threats and from Europe due to the challenges of emigration/immigration.

The continent benefited economically from continued exceptionally high average growth rates. These reflected and were a partial result of the growing interest in its natural resources and in particular the energy sector as well as other strategic minerals. While the G8 summit in St. Petersburg showed little interest in honouring its declared commitment to Africa, the Chinese offensive culminated in a Sino-African summit attended by high calibre African representatives on a scale unprecedented outside the UN or the AU. The latter had to address political challenges in the form of Sudan's claim to the chairmanship but the organisation coped with the task. Notwithstanding this success, NEPAD and its APRM continued to lag behind expectations. While armed conflicts continued, progress was made in advancing the prospects for a non-violent future in a number of war-torn sub-regions. However, lasting peace remained a remote goal for many countries. The DR Congo, Mauritania and Uganda were among the most prominent cases of presidential and parliamentary elections held during the year. Notwithstanding the trend to seek relatively peaceful and legitimate transitions or continued political dominance, military attempts to change governments continued to rear their heads. AIDS and malaria remained among the scourges facing the people, and droughts and floods continued to threaten the bare minimum survival of millions of people.