Islam in History: Ideas, People, and Events in the Middle East

By Bernard Lewis | Go to book overview

18
Ibn Khaldūn
in Turkey 18

It has by now become a commonplace of Middle Eastern studies that the discovery, evaluation, and appreciation of the Muqaddima of Ibn Khaldun is an achievement of European scholarship. The Arabic text was first printed in the edition of Etienne Quatremére, published in Paris in 1858; the first complete translation into a European language, the French version of Baron William MacGuckin de Slane, was published in Paris between 1862 and 1868 and for the first time made this masterpiece of historical and sociological thought available to the modern world.

Even before these major publications, Ibn Khaldūn was not unknown to European scholarship. During the first quarter of the nineteenth century, a number of articles appeared in learned journals and elsewhere, containing excerpts and translations from the Muqaddima and the History of Ibn Khaldūn, as well as some discussion of these works.1 Among them are studies by Silvestre de Sacy, who included some excerpts from the Muqaddima in his Arabic chrestomathy,2 and others by Joseph von Hammer, the great Austrian historian of the Ottoman empire. Besides his articles, Hammer refers a number of times in his Ottoman history to Ibn Khaldūn, whom he calls “the Arab Montesquieu.”3

The facts of the awakening and rapid development of European interest in Ibn Khaldūn, as the epoch-making character of his work was recognized, are clear and well known. What is much less known is the earlier interest and appreciation of his work among the Ottomans. It has often been said that Ibn Khaldūn was neglected and forgotten by his own people, until he was again brought to their notice by Western scholarship. It is doubtful if this is true for North Africa; it is certainly not true

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