Fadlo had studied at what later became the American University of Beirut and settled in Manchester as a cotton merchant. His family had converted from Eastern Orthodoxy to Scottish Presbyterianism and his father became an elder of the local church in Manchester. Hourani himself, in turn, converted to Catholicism in adulthood. He ended his academic career as Fellow of St.
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Albert Hourani studies the way in which ideas about politics and society changed during the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries, in response to the expanding influence of Europe. His main attention is given to the movement of ideas in Egypt and Lebanon. He shows how two streams of thought, the one aiming to restate the social principles of Islam, and the other to justify the separation of religion from politics, flowed into each other to create the Egyptian and Arab nationalisms of the present century.
The last chapter of the book surveys the main tendencies of thought in the post-war years. Since its publication in , this book has been regarded as a modern classic of interpretation.
It was reissued by the Cambridge University Press in and has subsequently sold over copies. Excerpt This is not a general history of modern Arabic thought. It is a study of that stream of political and social thought which began when, in the first half of the nineteenth century, educated men in the Arabic-speaking countries became aware of the ideas and institutions of modern Europe, and, in the second, started to feel its power. In order to revive the forces of their own society, what should they and what could they take from the west?
Once they began to borrow, in what sense would they remain Arabs and Muslims? I have tried to show how such questions became articulate and some of the answers given to them. I have not tried to include everything, but to select what best seemed to illustrate my theme: I have dealt more fully with early than with later formulations, more with what was written in Cairo and Beirut, the centres of Arabic thought, than elsewhere.
I have laid my main emphasis on the writings of a small number of thinkers who seemed to me more worth studying than the others, and tried to give enough details of their lives and the world in which they lived to make clear why they posed their problems in the way they did.
I should like to express my deep gratitude to institutions and persons who have helped me. My greatest debt is to the President and Fellows of Magdalen College, Oxford, who elected me to a research fellowship and so made it possible for me to start the process of thought and study which has led, after much delay, to this book.
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Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939