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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 August 2012

Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge


This essay surveys literature on the engagement of different European empires, including the French, British, Dutch, Russian, and German, with Islam. While the history of Islam and empire has attracted the attention of scholars for decades, most of their studies have been written primarily as contributions to the historiography of a specific empire or a distinct geographic region and rarely refer to research on other imperial powers, even though the questions and themes raised are remarkably similar. The article brings together these studies, exploring the following topics: Islam and imperial rule and, in particular, the ways in which religious institutions were accommodated and controlled in the colonial state; Islam and anti-imperial resistance; and the relationship between Islam, information, and colonial knowledge. It assesses the dominant themes in the field and points to a number of questions that remain to be studied.

Historiographical Reviews
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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The author wishes to thank Rachel G. Hoffman, Sujit Sivasundaram, John P. Slight, and the anonymous referees for their comments on earlier versions of this article.


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56 Danziger, Abd al-Qadir, pp. 195–7.

57 Sheik-Abdi, Divine madness, pp. 56–61.

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