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The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History (Bollingen Series (General)) Hardcover – 21 Jun 1981
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From review of Princeton's original edition: "[N. J. Dawood] has, by skillful abridgement and deft but unobtrusive editing, produced an attractive and manageable volume, which should make the essential ideas of Ibn Khaldûn accessible to a wide circle of readers."--Times Literary Supplement
From review of Princeton's original edition: "Undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever been created by any mind in any time or place . . . the most comprehensive and illuminating analysis of how human affairs work that has been made anywhere."--Arnold J. Toynbee, Observer
Top customer reviews
Ibn Khaldun was an exceptionally bright man (he is considered the father of economics and sociology by some, such is his greatness); during his time he held many influential political positions, he traveled around a great deal, he met many different types of people and studied with some of the greatest scholars in the Maghreb region. Due to his experiences he had a huge amount of knowledge and a lot of this knowledge is transferred into al-Muqaddimah.
The book discusses a wide range of topics: the flaws of history works, how and why a dynasty rises and falls, what drives civilisation, sufism, alchemy, dream interpretation, etc. He gives us a fascinating insight as to how the world works (even now) and what civilisation was like during his life. This book will help you become more educated and it may even change your perspective of life.
So yes buy this book you will not regret it!
This is one book I recommend to any student of History and any university lecturers of history who have no knowledge of Ibn Khaldun(1332-1406). The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History - introduces us to Ibn Khaldun - one of the greatest Arab Muslim historians. He studied the structure of society in history and his insights are of trans-cultural significance. Ibn Khaldun had an influence in the intricate politics of North Africa and Spain, and he was also a distinguished jurist and practicing judge, however his fame rests on his achievement as a historian and, more particularly, on the introductory volume to his "History of the World".
In this introduction, Ibn Khaldun shows a certain familiarity with pre-Islamic and Biblical material and makes references to developments in the Western Christian world.
He argues that humanity is divided into two groups: "natural" and "necessary" groups. The `natural' group as the nomads and the `necessary' group as the settlers. Ibn Khaldun observed that the nomads possess the physical and mental advantages of relative closeness to the state of nature. He goes on to say that nomads will, under the impact of a religious message and with the aid of their intense feeling of solidarity, grow into a political force which the members of urban settlements, weakened by the complexity of their lives and the luxuries to which they have become accustomed, always prove unable to resist. The latter fall prey to the invader, who in turn becomes a willing victim to the developmental cycle that has corrupted his predecessors.
According to Ibn Khaldun, the average life span of a Bedouin power is four generations.
Khaldun in his book introduces the phenomenon of `umrdn, social organization, which appears to be the nerve centre of his interest in things human. A sophisticated city dweller himself, Khaldun maintained throughout his politically active life close connections with those tribes from which the military forces of the rival princes whom he served were recruited, and on whose goodwill the continued existence of `umrdn in North Africa was dependent. His attitude to the Bedouin is curiously ambivalent. He admires their hardness, bravery, and social cohesiveness; he realizes that no empire can be built unless it has their support. At the same time, he is painfully aware of their innate destructiveness, their inability to give thought to the morrow, and their irrepressible lack of discipline which undermines whatever political structure they may have been able to achieve.
One of the weaknesses of The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History is that it is not very well written, and can sometimes be confusing due to frequent repetitions. One of the reasons for this could be that Ibn Khaldun was compelled to repeat himself so as to enable the reader to follow his thoughts through a manuscript which, in the present translation, fills 1400 pages. However, this repetitiveness accompanies a very strict and logical organization of the subject matter. He begins with man's physical environment and its influence upon him, to turn from there to man's psychological characteristics. Primitive social organization is taken up, its political structure discussed, and it is located in the network of relationships which is maintained with other savage societies anti with groups already more highly developed. The state as such, as the highest form of human organization, is analyzed in great detail and the caliphate, as the characteristic form of ruler-ship in Islam, is accorded special attention. The mechanics of change in a given sociopolitical structure are clearly of particular concern to the author. The argument moves on to the higher and highest forms of social life which he finds in the towns. This preoccupation involves a study of commerce and the crafts in relations to the state. Ibn Khaldun concludes with an encyclopedic description of the sciences and literary arts which civilization produces and which, at the same time, are civilization.
It is impossible to give a just impression of the enormous wealth of information and, more importantly, of insights which Ibn Khaldun offers in his text. His perceptiveness is truly all inclusive. He is aware of the basic forms of warfare as much as of the methods of commerce and the techniques of transportation; he is conversant with the essential data of all the sciences that were cultivated in his time. While he firmly believes in super rational cognition and is far from sceptical in regard to magical techniques of controlling nature, he is careful to safeguard the character of history as such, as a process amenable to rational analysis, and is most insistent on what we might call the regularity of human responses to environmental stimulation throughout the ages. It is by no means surprising that the History of the World which his philosophical inquiry prefaced turned out to be a rather conventional piece of work. To organize all of man's historical experience in terms of the categories developed in the The Muqaddimah would have necessitated the creation of an entirely new technique of presentation, a task which was perhaps not so much beyond as outside his interests and capabilities. The Muqaddimah did not have much of an effect on Arab historiography; it is referred to, but not really utilized for a century or so after Ibn Khaldun had died.
It is the Turks who drew inspiration from it and preserved an awareness of the fruitfulness of Ibn Khaldun's approach into the 18th century, even though they never attempted actually to imitate his work or strictly to apply his principles. Ibn Khaldun was rediscovered, so to speak, by French scholarship in the nineteenth century. It was in Paris that the first printed edition of the The Muqaddimah appeared (1862) and its first translation (1862-68). There never has been since a rendering of the whole introduction into English or any other Western language for that matter.
Rosenthal's translation is a magnificent achievement, the difficulties of which only the specialist can appreciate, for the smooth flow of his version almost hides the innumerable problems which had to be solved. The publisher has done his best to give this great book a suitable appearance and the concise and informative introduction by Bruce B. Lawrence.
The English interpretation of Ibn Khaldun's historical works should be read by all those who wish to gain a better understanding into the currents that drive human civilization. The scholar's words, although they were written down over six hundred years ago, contain insights that are remarkable and wisdom that will provide the reader with a fresh outlook on the world around them.
The work deals with the various conditions that underly the rise, maintenence, maturity and decline of civilization and of the political entities that are created by people. The role of the "dynasty" (government) in the economy, the effect of taxation, the circulation of wealth, and other aspects of the political economy are set down in great detail.
Ibn Khaldun describes the stages that every civilization passes from the turmoil of the inception of political entities, through the stability of the "middle period," to the "senility" and decline. Where the pursuit of luxury and ease in a sociey dominates and results in the eventual death of the dynasty. His parallel of the life of a society and with the life of an individual is a thing that is thought provoking.
I hope more people will read this book and thereby experience the genius of Ibn Khaldun.
Sharif M. Sazzad
Quite simply, this work displays such passionate enthusiasm in its quest for rational knowledge, and investigates such a broad spectrum of human behavior, that it has rarely been equaled in its scope. I wouldn't hesitate to say that it's one of the very few books that can change your outlook on life. Ibn Khaldun spent most of his lifetime writing the Muqaddimah, and it stands for all to see as the legacy of a genius.
Of particular importance in my opinion is his division of human society into urban and rural communities. This crucial distinction makes the book one of the founding documents of sociology. Moreover, its brilliant examination of political economy develops ideas that can be traced hundreds of years later in the works of Montesquieu, Smith, Marx, and Engels. I also found that even after 600 years, the description of Bedouin society was still very relevant.
I strongly encourage you to acquire a copy of this epic work. Don't be put off by its age. After reading a few pages, you will quickly realize that you've uncovered a rare jewel.