What’s in a Period? Arabic Historiography and Periodization

Document Type



This article introduces the question of periodization in a comparativeperspective under three headings: space, subject matter, and agency. The issueof space has deeply influenced reflections on periodization as is, evident, forinstance, within changed frameworks such as global history and new fields ofstudy, such as Mediterranean or Indian Ocean Studies. For the Middle East, therise of the concept of Late Antiquity has proven to be a particularly fruitful spatialreconfiguration that has changed established notions of periodization. The secondmajor impact on the questions of periodization has come from changing thematicfoci, most importantly, the diversification of historical studies away fromthe primacy of political history. In the field of Middle Eastern history, this has beenparticularly pertinent on account of the prominent position that dynastic periodizationshave held. Finally, notions of periodization have undergone changesas the question of historical agency has been reconsidered. In the study of non-European history, such changes emerged in particular as an outcome of reflectionson the degree to which such societies’ histories followed patterns derivedfrom European models. The article argues that the contributions to this volumeopen up new venues to think of the question of periodization in Middle Easternhistory by taking a long-term perspective from early Islam to the present day.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Der Islam

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