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The Cambridge History of Islam

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First published in 1970, The Cambridge History of Islam is the most comprehensive and ambitious collaborative survey of Islamic history and civilisation yet to appear in English. On publication it was welcomed as a work useful both for reference and reading, for the general reader, students and specialist alike. The History has now been reprinted, with corrections, and for ease of handling the original two hardcover volumes have each been divided into two separate paperbacks. Volume 1B covers the history of the central Islamic lands from 1918 to the 1960s.


‘ … undoubtedly a very valuable and very much needed contribution to the field of Islamic studies. It is a thoroughly scholarly and often erudite presentation of the entire Muslim world that will be consulted by specialists and non-specialists for many years to come’.

Source: The Middle East Journal

‘On the basis of length and scope, the History is the most comprehensive, and at the same time the most detailed study of Islam so far attempted, and … it is likely to remain so for at least another generation.’

Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society

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  • 1 - Modern Turkey
    pp 527-565
  • View abstract
    The study of the social structure of various groups in the Assembly and of their ideologies ranging from Islam to socialism is essential for understanding the nature of modern Turkey. The nationalism dominant in the War of Liberation was the outgrowth of populist ideas and religious loyalties, and in this form it was instrumental in defining the territorial limits of Turkey. The Work, Industry and Mining Banks became the cornerstone of Turkish economic policy, but without achieving spectacular results. Foreign relations rather than internal policies became the dominant theme of this period. The end of the Second World War found Turkey exhausted physically and morally at the hands of a rightist bureaucratic order closely resembling a dictatorship. Turkey gives a unique example of conversion from a semi-dictatorial system to a democracy. The history of nationalism in Turkey is intimately associated with the evolution of state ideology from Islamic universalism to multi-national Ottomanism, and finally to one-nation Turkism and patriotism.
  • 2 - The Arab lands
    pp 566-594
  • View abstract
    The Arab lands of the Near East which were part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly four hundred years, fell under Allied military occupation by the end of 1918. In the light of the foregoing events, the years 1918-20 seem to have been crucial in the modern history of the Arabs. They ushered in the first phase of Arab struggle with the West for political independence. The Arab Muslims were the heirs of a culture and a civilization which were deeply rooted in Islam. Communism began to take root in Arab lands after 1928. The Arab lands found themselves directly involved in the war after the collapse of France in 1940. Two World Wars and over a quarter of a century of Arab-Western relations had produced numerous and painful lessons for anyone who wanted to learn. One obstacle to the understanding of Arab nationalism by a non-Arab and a non-Muslim is that of language.
  • 3 - Modern Persia
    pp 595-626
  • View abstract
    In the provinces, various forces rallied to the defence of constitutional government in Persia. The entente between Germany and Russia signalled by the Potsdam Agreement enabled Russia to pursue a more blatantly aggressive policy in regard to Persia. On 29 November 1911, the Russians presented an ultimatum to the Persian government, demanding inter alia the dismissal of the American treasurer-general Morgan Shuster. During the First World War, Persian territory became a battlefield for Turkish, Russian and British forces. Persia emerged from the war in a state of administrative and financial chaos. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 at first promised to inaugurate a new era in the relations between Persia and Russia. In 1942, American influence in Iran was reinforced by the creation of the Persian Gulf Command. Nationalism in Persia has meant different things at different times, and has also been interpreted differently by different groups of people at one and the same time.
  • 4 - Islam in the Soviet Union
    pp 627-643
  • View abstract
    The Tsarist Russian Empire had the third largest Muslim population in the world, being surpassed only by the British empire, especially India, and the Ottoman empire. After the October 1917 Revolution, Lenin and other Bolshevik leaders gave a special emphasis to the Islamic world. However, since the people of the Tatar, Bashkir, Kazakh and other Central Asian republics still belonged to Islam, these countries were regarded as Muslim. As a result of relations with Turkey and Egypt, the new movements in these countries had repercussions among the Muslims in Russia. The religious books published before 1917 included serious studies on Islamic religion, and important works on Islamic philosophy were also being written. The parts of Russia where the Muslims lived had been most damaged by the Civil War. According to the decision of 30 November 1923, the Religious Administration in Ufa was given permission for religious publishing. The most important publication was the monthly Islām Mejellesi.
  • 5 - Communism in the central Islamic lands
    pp 644-672
  • View abstract
    The period of radical reform at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century was one in which all revolutionary energy was mobilized in the upsurge of the nationalist movement. It was in the wake of this movement that Marxist ideas began warily to make their way into the Muslim world. In October 1917, the triumph of Communism in Russia in overthrowing the tsarist monarchy, dispossessing the ruling classes, and in standing up to the intervention of the Western powers, was a stimulating example for all the Eastern revolutionaries who were engaged in the same struggle against the same adversaries. In 1918, of all the Middle East countries, Turkey was considered by the Comintern to be the one in which the Communist revolution had most chance of success, which would have made it the starting point for the propagation of Communism throughout the Middle East and in Africa.
  • 6 - The Political impact of the West
    pp 673-697
  • View abstract
    The impact of the West on the rest of the world has been the most striking feature of human history in the last five hundred years. Islam grew out of the same ancient Middle Eastern, Judaic and Hellenistic roots as did Christianity. Defensive modernization began in Ottoman Turkey in the eighteenth century, in Egypt and Persia in the nineteenth, and in Afghanistan and on the Arabian peninsula in the twentieth. European colonial conquest moved concentrically from the periphery of the Islamic region to its core. Russian Central Asia, Palestine and, for a time, Algeria, have been the only Muslim territories where Western rule entailed immigrant settlement, where colonialism implied colonization. The story of Ottoman westernization was repeated with significant variations in Egypt and Persia. At the end of the Second World War, the Muslim countries have fully participated in the world-wide transition from colonialism to sovereignty.
  • 7 - Economic and social change
    pp 698-730
  • View abstract
    The continuous display of European power from the end of the eighteenth century aroused the Muslim world to an appreciation of modern science, technology, and social and political organization. Indigenous political leaders, however, still retained some power both to resist militarily and to introduce social, economic and political measures to reform their domains. Ottoman involvement with Europe led to considerable indebtedness, and then to European financial control in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Thus Europeans controlled revenue and expenditure while the Commission arranged for the payments to Egypt's creditors; the Commission's consent was required for new loans. Further penetration of the Middle East by European capital followed during a period of relative stability. An economic change like the growth of a transport system certainly affects a social change like the increase in migration. Students have sometimes played important political roles in some Muslim countries, notably Egypt, Persia and Turkey.
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