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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 August 2006

Stephen Frederic Dale
Stephen Frederic Dale is Professor in the Department of History at Ohio State University, 230 West 17th Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1367, USA; e-mail:


Despite the attention that scholars have lavished on Ibn Khaldun's Muqaddima, the historiographical significance of that remarkable work is still not well understood. Scholars continue to discuss the Muqaddima largely within the context of Islamic historiography, even though most of them regard it as an anomaly that differs fundamentally from the works of other Muslim historians. In certain respects, the Muqaddima belongs to an Islamic historical tradition, that of al-Tabari and al-Masעudi. Yet, its dominant intellectual lineage is the rationalist thought that stretches from the Peripatetic philosophers, and especially from Aristotle (384–322 BCE), through such Greco–Islamic thinkers as al-Farabi (870–950 CE), Ibn Sina (980–1037 CE), and Ibn Rushd (1126–1198 CE) onward to European philosophical historians and sociologists of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. It is precisely because Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406 CE) used the logical apparatus and materialist assumptions of this rationalist tradition as the conceptual basis for his new historical science that he can be characterized as the last Greek historian. He can be considered the first Annaliste historian because the same Greek philosophical heritage influenced both the sociologist Émile Durkheim, who wrote his Latin dissertation on Montesquieu (1689–1755 CE), and also Durkheim's student, Marc Bloch, the cofounder of the Annales School. This heritage is also visible in an attenuated form in Fernand Braudel's distinction between the longue durée and the history of events. Indeed, Ibn Khaldun developed what modern scholars would identify as a structuralist methodology, using classical logic to identify enduring socioeconomic realities underlying cultural phenomena and ephemeral events, what he describes as the “general conditions of regions, races and periods that constitute the historian's foundation.”

© 2006 Cambridge University Press

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