Cover: The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment, from Harvard University PressCover: The Republic of Arabic Letters in HARDCOVER

The Republic of Arabic Letters

Islam and the European Enlightenment

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Product Details


$35.00 • £25.95 • €31.50

ISBN 9780674975927

Publication: February 2018

Academic Trade

360 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

18 color illustrations, 2 maps

Belknap Press


Deeply thoughtful… A delight.The Economist

A closely researched and engrossing study of a subset of the Republic of Letters—those scholars who, having learned Arabic, used their mastery of that difficult language to interpret the Quran, study the career of Muhammad, write the history of medieval Islam and introduce Europeans to the masterpieces of Arabic literature… [Bevilacqua] has joined the ranks of a latter-day Republic of Arabic Letters that, in its scholarship and scholarly cooperation, is in no way inferior to its early-modern precursor.—Robert Irwin, The Wall Street Journal

What makes his study so groundbreaking, and such a joy to read, is the connection he makes between intellectual history and the material history of books. The re-evaluation of Islam that took place in the 17th century was closely connected to the acquisition of a much wider range of empirical sources than had been available before: it was the stockpiling of Oriental collections in the great libraries of Europe that enabled this work to take place.—Gavin Jacobson, Financial Times

[A] tour de force study of the origins of modern Islamic scholarship in the West and its central role in the Enlightenment… Bevilacqua’s extraordinary book provides the first true glimpse into this story… It has taken until now for a book to tell the history of the origins of the Western study of Islam, as Bevilacqua’s does. Few have his linguistic and cultural expertise. He, like the tradition he describes, is a rarity.—Jacob Soll, The New Republic

A closely researched and elegantly written book… The Republic of Arabic Letters brings back to life a fascinating moment in intellectual history.—Francis Ghiles, Arab Weekly

A succinct and erudite overview of 17th- and 18th-century European scholars and writers who focused on Islamic studies.Publishers Weekly

Fascinating, eloquent, and learned, The Republic of Arabic Letters reveals a world later lost, in which European scholars studied Islam with a sense of affinity and respect. With deep research and insight, Alexander Bevilacqua delivers a powerful reminder of the ability of scholarship to transcend cultural divides, and the capacity of human minds to accept differences without denouncing them.—Maya Jasanoff, author of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World

Among the many things produced by the Enlightenment we must now include a vast expansion of European scholarly engagement with Arabic and Islam. That engagement shaped much of how future Christians and Muslims would think about each other and themselves. Alexander Bevilacqua’s learned and luminous The Republic of Arabic Letters is both a recovery of a fascinating moment in intellectual history, and an exploration of the conditions of thought in our own time.—David Nirenberg, author of Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today