History of Historiography: Trends, Schools, and Methodologies

New book by ACRPS Researcher Wajih Kawtharani

Published in January 2012, Wajih Kawtharani's History of Historiographies: Trends, Schools and Methodologies (448 pages) addresses the question of historical knowledge in light of scientific thinking, and elaborates on the difficulty of describing history as an "academic discipline". The book further charts the development of the concept of history and historic writing within Arab civilization, and how it has grown from compilations of biographies and early chronicles, narrating events and anecdotes, into a modern, sophisticated academic discipline.

The book itself builds on a shorter booklet written by the same author in 2001, under the title Historiography and Historiographical Schools in the West and in Arab Civilization; this newer volume, however, presents a more comprehensive, holistic vision compared to the 2001 book. History of Historiographies goes on to present the major accomplishments of some of the major schools of historical thinking, including logical empiricism, Marxism, and others, including the Annales school of French historical thinking. Building on these, the author goes on to present a series of critical assessments of a number of noted Arab historians and scholars, including Constantine Zreik, Tarif Khalidi, Abdulaziz al-Douri, Nicholas Ziadeh, Zein Noureldine Zein, Ridwan al-Sayed, Mohammed Abed al-Jabery, and Nassif Nassar.

In addition to an introductory section devoted to methodology, the book contains another three chapters, a conclusion, and a complete bibliography and index. The first section contains an etymology of the words "historiography" and "history," drawing parallels between the Latin word istor and the Arabic ostoura, or "legend". After this, the author goes into a detailed discussion of various topics, among them the science of contest and adjustment (al-jarh wa al-tadil) as presented by Lebanese historian Asad Rustom, while mentioning reservations expressed by Averroes (Ibn Rushd) regarding the same topic. Kawtharani then goes on to draw a comparison between Averroes and Rustom, arriving at concrete conclusions about the process of historiography, its ability to remain independent, and its relationship to the other human and social sciences.


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