First Five Hundred Years of the Arabic Book: The Native Origin of the Authors

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What do we know about the authors of the earliest Arabic books in terms of their native origins and linguistic and cultural backgrounds? Were the majority of them Arabic-speaking Muslims from imperial capitals, or non-Arab converts or even non-Muslims? Could this information be useful in tracing the flow and formation of ideas and culture? To answer these questions computationally, one must begin with creating a corpus of texts – in this case the OpenITI – including robust metadata for the texts and their authors. In this blog, I will discuss the question of the native origins of scholars and authors of early Islamicate society based on a sub-corpus of the OpenITI, which includes all the texts in the corpus written within the first five centuries of Islam ending at 505/1111, al-Ghazali’s death date. More generally, I hope to show how a combination of quantitative and macro-analytic approaches can be useful for the study of premodern Arabic texts and the history of the Arabic book and its authors.