In his masterwork Muqaddimah, the Arab Muslim Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), a Tunisian descendant of Andalusian scholars and officials in Seville, developed a method of evaluating historical evidence that allowed him to identify the underlying causes of events. His methodology was derived from Aristotelian notions of nature and causation, and he applied it to create a dialectical model that explained the cyclical rise and fall of North African dynasties. The Muqaddimah represents the world’s first example of structural history and historical sociology. Four centuries before the European Enlightenment, this work anticipated modern historiography and social science.
In Stephen F. Dale’s The Orange Trees of Marrakesh, Ibn Khaldun emerges as a cultured urban intellectual and professional religious judge who demanded his fellow Muslim historians abandon their worthless tradition of narrative historiography and instead base their works on a philosophically informed understanding of social organizations. His strikingly modern approach to historical research established him as the premodern world’s preeminent historical scholar. It also demonstrated his membership in an intellectual lineage that begins with Plato, Aristotle, and Galen; continues with the Greco-Muslim philosophers al-Farabi, Avicenna, and Averroes; and is renewed with Montesquieu, Hume, Adam Smith, and Durkheim.
Stephen Dale’s book contains a careful account of the dizzying ups and downs of Ibn Khaldun’s political and academic career at courts in North Africa, Andalusia and Egypt. For these and other reasons The Orange Trees of Marrakesh deserves careful and respectful attention.
Six centuries ago, a Tunisian scholar created a new mirror for humankind. In his masterwork Muqaddimah, Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) became the first person to approach history scientifically, by analyzing social, economic and political evidence to reveal cycles of societal change… Historian Stephen Frederic Dale argues that Ibn Khaldun’s work is a key milestone on the road from Greek to Enlightenment thought, chiming with the radical reasoning of philosophers such as Montesquieu and Adam Smith.
Stephen F. Dale wrote an insightful and well-readable monograph that explains Ibn Khaldūn’s new science of human societies in novel ways and that makes for a good textbook in advanced undergraduate and in graduate courses.
Dale’s interest in Greco-Islamic philosophy contributes to this biography’s uniqueness…This work provides indispensable background information to truly appreciate this single most influential Islamic historian.
Excellent scholarship on a fascinating subject.
This is an extremely readable and accessible work that will prove to be both enjoyable and intellectually beneficial to the general reader as well as scholars interested in the social sciences, history, and the Middle East and North African regions. The major contribution of this book is Dale’s discussion of the Aristotelian roots of Ibn Khaldun’s method and its use in his model of state formation.
This is a masterful book that could only be written by a historian of Dale’s experience and deep thinking. It serves as both an introduction to the work of Ibn Khaldun and an argument for adding him to a canon of intellectual history—from the Greeks through the Renaissance to the Enlightenment—that normally excludes non-European thinkers. This is intellectual history of the first order and one of the best books I know of for specialists and non-specialists on the thought of one of the most important intellectuals of the last millennium.
- 400 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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