A Brief History of Islamic Civilization from Its Genesis in the Late Nineteenth Century to Its Institutional Entrenchment


This article sketches the early history of Islamic civilization from its genesis in the late nineteenth century to its institutionalization in the twentieth. Key moments include its enshrinement in journals and a monumental encyclopedia and the flight of European Semitists to the United States. Its institutionalization in the undergraduate curriculum at the University of Chicago in 1956 created a successful model for the subsequent dissemination of Islamic civilization. Working in a committee on general education (the core curriculum) in the social sciences at the University of Chicago, Marshall Hodgson inaugurated Islamic civilization as a subject of university study that was not just for specialists but available to American college students as fulfilling a basic requirement in a liberal arts education. Many other universities followed this practice. Since then, Islamic civilization has come to be shared by the educated public. Today it is an internationally accepted and wellfunded entity that confers contested social power but still lacks analytical power. 

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