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.
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.