FOREWORD BY EMMANUEL LE ROY LADURIE
Information, the control of information and its speed of circulation have always been central preoccupations for States. In the 13th century, the Mongols conquered China, borrowed the imperial postal relay system and diffused it throughout all the conquered territories: Central Asia, Russia, Iran, Iraq. This postal service enabled them to transport all sorts of strategic information rapidly. When they invaded Syria and Palestine, they installed a postal relay network there. In September 1260, the Mongol armies were beaten in Palestine and Syria by the Mamlûk Sultanate troops, who in turn, borrowed the Mongol postal relay system and installed it throughout the Sultanate. Then, towards the end of the 14th century, the Duchy of Milan created the first European postal relay, which appeared to be modelled on the Mongol or Mamlûk postal systems. However, in Europe, the postal service underwent a transformation that had singular political and cultural consequences: the State made the postal service available to individuals, in exchange for payment. From then on, the postal service transported private correspondence where individual worries, emotions and projects were formulated. In this way, the postal institution contributed to a certain degree and in its own way, to the construction of the modern individual. This volume examines the phenomenon of diffusion itself as well as questions pertaining to information and its links with the State and the individual in different Eurasian cultures.
Didier GAZAGNADOU is Full Professor of Anthropology at the University-Paris VIII (Department of sociology and anthropology). He carries out researches on the Arab world, Iran and on technical and cultural diffusions, particularly in Eurasia. He was a researcher at the French Institution of Research in Iran (Institut Français de Recherche en Iran) and cultural advisor at the French Embassy in the United Arab Emirates. He is a member of the research team EA 1571 “History of power, knowledge and societies” (Paris VIII) and of the research network: “Comparative anthropology of Muslim societies” – Social Anthropology Laboratory (L.A.S. Paris). He is the author of several volumes: La poste à relais en Eurasie (Kimé 2013), La diffusion des techniques et les cultures (Kimé 2008); La poste à relais (1ère éd. Kimé, 1994); Joseph Needham, un taoïste d’honneur (Le Félin, 1991); co-editor of L’œuvre de Claude Cahen, Lectures critiques (Brill, 1996) and of articles in diverse Journals, including : Studia Islamica, Arabica, Etudes Mongoles et sibériennes, Toplumbilim, Techniques et Culture, Anthropology of the Middle East, Commentaire, l’Encyclopédie de l’Islam (Brill).