In This Review

Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939
Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939
By Albert Habib Hourani
Oxford University Press, 1962, 403 pp

This is intellectual history at its best, a study of ideas and thinkers and the impact they had on their societies. Here one will find a clear discussion of the roots of Arab nationalism, Islamic reform, and the turn toward Islamic radicalism. Hourani deftly deals with the themes of modernization, the influence of the West, and the search for authenticity. The book has survived the passage of time remarkably well and is still an essential source for understanding the major political currents that have swept the Arab world in this century. Before Hourani's study, the dominant view of the origins of Arab nationalism was provided by George Antonius in The Arab Awakening: The Story of the Arab National Movement (1938). More recently, Fouad Ajami's The Arab Predicament: Arab Political Thought and Practice Since 1967 (1981), written after the 1967 war, foresaw the erosion of Nasserism and the importance of Islam as a political rallying point.