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A History of Islamic Societies [Paperback]

Ira M. Lapidus
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

22 Aug 2002 0521779332 978-0521779333 2
In this 2002 second edition, Ira Lapidus explores the origins and evolution of Muslim societies. The book, revised and updated, is divided into three parts. The first covers the formative era of Islamic civilization. The second traces the diffusion of worldwide Islamic societies, while the third explores their reaction to European imperialism, and emergence as independent states. The concluding chapters consider Islam's recent history, the formation of Islamic revival movements and global Islamic identities. The book is essential reading for students and for those seeking to understand the Muslim peoples.

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A History of Islamic Societies + The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800 (Themes in Islamic History)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 1002 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2 edition (22 Aug 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521779332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521779333
  • Product Dimensions: 23 x 15 x 5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 283,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'… Lapidus is concerned not with defining an essential Islam, but rather with mapping the role of Islamic beliefs, institutions, and identities in particular historical contexts.' International Journal of Middle East Studies

'The value of A History of Islamic Societies lies in its sheer comprehensiveness. In one volume a vast amount of material is synthesized and presented in a clear and effective style. There is nothing else like it. For the first time the worldwide history of Islamic societies is made accessible to the interested reader.' The Journal of Asian Studies

Review of first edition: 'I do not think that any other world civilization can boast a comparable general account of such substance and quality … this is a great deal more than a textbook. It is a product of learning, intellect and style of an extremely high order.' Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

Review of first edition: 'I do not think that any other world civilization can boast a comparable general account of such substance and quality. .. this is a great deal more than a textbook. It is a product of learning, intellect and style of an extremely high order.' Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

Book Description

Ira Lapidus' classic history of the origins and evolution of Muslim societies was revised and updated for this 2002 second edition. The book traces the evolution of Islam from Muhammad to the present day. It is essential reading for students and for anyone seeking to understand the Muslim peoples.

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First Sentence
Islamic societies were built upon the framework of an already established and ancient Middle Eastern civilization. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A history primer 31 July 2010
Lapidus' is considered a standard text on the history of Islamic societies in many universities, and rightly so. The text is insightful enough not to fall into the trap of analyzing every event in Islamic history as necessarily religiously motivated albeit he sometimes he sometimes fails to discover the theological links between different groups within the larger Muslim body. The texts focuses, quite naturally, on the larger historical events and does not dwell too much on the theological aspect of Muslim society and rightly so. That would be a totally different subject.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best Islamic history book 14 Sep 2011
By Mo
I have recently read through the first 300 pages of this book. It is very well written and very well researched. It has often surprised me with clarifications of some complex issues which were also linked to complex development of theological and philosophical schools in early Islamic history. The author does not seem to waste words.
Very well researched.

I have the first edition and im assuming there have been some updates made on second edition.

The book itself, although a 1988 print, is still very well researched.

Over the years I have read through various books on Islam, from Muslim and non-Muslim perspectives, academic and non-academic. But for some reason, this was the only book that stands out far better then most of the books I have read on development on early Islamic history.

As a Social Historian, Lapidus is a very good author and writer. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the basic development of Islamic societies worldwide.

Other authors I would recommend are Bernard Lewis and Montgomery Watt. Most of Lewis's works seem to focus on the development of Arabs throughout their history with not much significance given to the theological and philosophical developments of the early schools. Watt's works seems to analyse the development of various Islmaic philosophies but may need a little updating. However his book "The Prophet: A Statesman" is a brialliant historical outlook on Muhammads life. Its a summarised book on two much larger volumes.

My personal favourite though would be Lapidus
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  17 reviews
48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The definitive one-volume treatment of Islamic Societies 30 Oct 2001
By Tom L. Forest - Published on Amazon.com
The back cover claims this to be an "[a]uthorative and comprehensive history of Islamic societies written for the general reader and student that will no doubt prove to be a classic work in its field." I am happy to report that claim to be justified.
In clear and accessible style for college-level reading, Lapidus covers the Arab-Turkish-Iranian core as well as the African, Indian, and Indonesian periphery of the Muslim world. He also touches on the ex-Soviet and Chinese Muslims. The differences in political and economic organization are highlighted and contrasted, the variations of Islamic belief are explored, and the challenges of modernity are addressed.
If you're looking for a chronicling of dynastic politics, military vicissitudes, and 'great man' theories of history, look elsewhere. If you want a comprehensive, balanced synthesis comparing Islamic societies for the last 1400 years, read this book.
After reading "A History of Islamic Societies", consider moving on to Marshall Hodgson's three-volume set "The Venture of Islam".
39 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bold arguments suited for non-beginners 7 Jun 2000
By "muslimhistorian" - Published on Amazon.com
This is no ordinary history facts-and-dates book for beginners. The rule is that you must have some general idea of the whole Islamic history, preferrably have read J.J. Saunder's 'The History of Medieval Islam.'
For those of you who have done your reading this is the perfect companion to test your arguments to the very limits. Some of Lapidus' arguments inconveniently disturb sacred faith of the pious, others might open up new horizon to the seculars, but mostly the arguments offer relevant issues never before thought correlated.
Buy it, read it, and love it. But don't hesitate to throw it out of the window when it gets too obstructing. Just pick it up the next day and read it some more, only then you'll appreciate what Prof. Lapidus has done for us. It easily become a classic in a short while.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and Readable 28 Feb 2005
By Ron Atkins - Published on Amazon.com
This is a classic work on the history of Islamic societies. I'm not a historian, but found the book very readable. Its 900+ pages present an in-depth analysis of the history of North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, leading up to the rise of Islam. Interestingly, Lapidus reveals the rise of Islam did not happen in a sudden, broad sweep, as I had been led to believe. Rather, Islam was adopted by Bedouins, merchants, etc. one tribe and village at a time. According to Lapidus, Islam has been marked with internal strife from the beginning when numerous civil wars over doctrine, leadership, and interpretation of the Prophet's message, led to the division of the faith into its Sunni and Shi'a sects. It is an incredible story that every westerner should read. The book covers the periods prior to Mohammed's revelations through the 20th century, and is divided into three parts:

The Origins of Islamic Civilization: 600 to 1200

The Worldwide diffusion of Islamic Societies

The Modern Transformation

As a Christian, I found the depiction of Christianity's role in the Middle East, especially in the early days of Islam, interesting. Lapidus is a noted scholar and has done us all a service by writing this book. I highly recommend it.
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The "World History" you never learned in highschool 6 Nov 2004
By "chester_mcgee" - Published on Amazon.com
Lapidus' writing style is magnificent for a book of this depth (and length). Rather than writing dates and facts, he ties together the story of Islam with a scholar's perspective. He writes clearly, breaking up specific themes that require special consideration, and never hesitates to acknowledge when a specific topic is a subject of speculation or debate.
Lapidus does the religion justice in portraying it objectively; not as an evil or superior religion, but as a historical religion (with moments of beauty and depravity experienced by every faith) which served as scaffolding to a Middle Eastern empire, and continues to unite over a billion people throughout the world.
I remember learning "World History" in regards to the history of the Roman/European/North American events, but not once was the history of Africa (asides from light discussions on European colonialism), the Middle East and Asia discussed in highschool. It's unfortunate that most of us North Americans continue to learn absolutely nothing about the history of over half the world...
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, Comprehensive Resource 24 Sep 2000
By Tron Honto - Published on Amazon.com
This work is an excellent overview of Islamic societies. Also, it is highly readable for a history book. Of course, it can get dull at times just as all really detailed history books must, but this work remains highly lucid throughout. The strongest breakthrough of this book concerns its treatment of the Arabization of Middle East and the developement of what we know as the modern Arab identity. However, to typify in a few sentence as book of this scope is impossible. Once you read it, you will find yourself going it back to it again and again for reference and for understanding modern events.
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