Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939: Issued under the Auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939: Issued under the Auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939: Issued under the Auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939: Issued under the Auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs

Excerpt

This is not a general history of modern Arabic thought. It is a study of that stream of political and social thought which began when, in the first half of the nineteenth century, educated men in the Arabic-speaking countries became aware of the ideas and institutions of modern Europe, and, in the second, started to feet its power. In order to revive the forces of their own society, what should they and what could they take from the west? Once they began to borrow, in what sense would they remain Arabs and Muslims? I have tried to show how such questions became articulate and some of the answers given to them. I have not tried to include everything, but to select what best seemed to illustrate my theme: I have dealt more fully with early than with later formulations, more with what was written in Cairo and Beirut, the centres of Arabic thought, than elsewhere. I have laid my main emphasis on the writings of a small number of thinkers who seemed to me more worth studying than the others, and tried to give enough details of their lives and the world in which they lived to make clear why they posed their problems in the way they did. After 1945 the distinction between 'east' and 'west' no longer has the same validity as before, and the problem of 'westernization' ceases to lie at the centre of thought; a new stream of thought begins to flow, which I have done no more than indicate from a distance in my epilogue.

I should like to express my deep gratitude to institutions and persons who have helped me. My greatest debt is to the President and Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford, who elected me to a research fellowship and so made it possible for me to start the process of thought and study which has led, after much delay, to this book. Part of the matter of it has been given in the form of lectures, at the American University of Beirut in 1956-7, at the College of Arts and Sciences in Baghdad in 1957, at Oxford in 1958-9, at the Institut des Hautes Études of Tunis in 1959; I must thank those who arranged for me to give the lectures and . . .

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