Arab Historiography and Arab History: the Possible Answers

08 June, 2017

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has published Arab History and Arab Historiography: Past and Present Forms of Writing. This latest published volume is based on the proceedings of the April 2016 conference on Arab Historiography held at the Center's Beirut Office, as part of the third annual Historical Studies Conference.  Khaled Ziade, Director of the ACRPS Beirut Office, wrote the Introduction to the volume titled "The Use of Personal Affairs Documents in the Writing of Arab History."

Ziade's introduction makes clear the importance of formal documents in freeing Arab historians from reliance on narrative sources of history or medieval texts. Instead of a blind reliance on written reports received from the distant past, historians equipped with primary, historical documents can construct a body of knowledge centered on the past based on the economic, cultural and social understanding of earlier generations. Personal affairs documents, documenting the milestones in the lives of many in the Arab region, could flesh out historical narratives more fully, and bring historians into the realm of the other social sciences and humanities.

The remainder of the book is divided into three sections. The first, "The Writing of Arab History: the Discipline, Periodization and Perspective," is divided into ten chapters contributed by: Ahmad Al Shabool (on the relationship of Arab history to world history); Ahmad Abu Shouk (on the periodization of Arab-Islamic civilization); Ibrahim Al Qadri Boutchich (on the "unwritten history" of the Arab Spring); Mohammed Murqatin (ancient civilizations in the Arab region and the formation of the historical identity of the Arab peoples); Mohammed Ezzeldine (on the revolution, historical memory and justice in Egypt); Abdulrahman Chamssadine (on the historical methodology of Kamal Salibi and his writings on early Christianity); Mohammed Al Azhar Al Gharbi (on the economic history of classical Islamic societies); Anouar Zanati (on books of medieval religious rulings as a primary source of historical study of the Andalus and the Maghreb); and Amal Ghazal (on modern Arab history as a force for confessional marginalization and the case of Ibadi Muslims).

The second section, made up of eight chapters, deals with the topic of nation-state histories within the Arab world. It includes contributions from: Nuha Khalaf (on micro-history and the redrafting of Palestinian history); Abdelrahim Benhadda (on the production of historical knowledge in Morocco); Mohammed Habida (long-term periodization in the writing of Moroccan history); Fatima Bensulieman (the state in modern Tunisian historiography); Hama Allah Ould Al Salem (on the crisis of Mauritanian national history); Najlaa Makkawi (transformations of Egyptian historical writing); Muhanad Mubidin (national history of modern-day Jordan); and Naseer Al Kaabi (on the methodology of Iraqi historical writing).

A third section is given over to "Comparative History and Questions of Memory and History", and is further divided into 14 separate chapters. Contributors include Ezzedine Jasous (the Muslim West and Arab and Western schools of history); Tarek Madani (the history of Islamic Andalus and divergences between Arab and Western historiography); Saleh Alouani (the history of North Africa: contemporary French and medieval Arab sources); Mohammed Tahar Al Mansuri (the depiction of the Byzantines in Arab civilization through language); Abdulaziz Al Taheri (contemporary Arab historiography, with the case study of Morocco); Masoud Al Dulaimi (history in Algeria: reviving memory and academic research); Yehia Boulahia (mythology and history); Amr Abdulaziz Munir (Arabic popular folktales as a source on the Arab conquest of Egypt); Mohammed Hamzeh (on the history of the marginalized in early Islamic communities); Mahsen Abduljaleel (a methodological approach to silenced history); Abdullah Ali Ibrahim (Ibn Khaldun within Sudanese identity discourse); Abdulaziz Labib (on historical writing of the Arab conquest of the Maghreb); and Abdulwahed Makni (on historical anthropology and the role of the historian).

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