2.1.2 Venture of Islam

Major ethnic groups and subgroups in northern Africa and Middle East. US Library of Congress, 1989.


In the short term the headlines make it very difficult to turn from immediate crises that fuel the popular media to calmer assessments—at once more productive and more predictive—of historical change. That is why Hodgson is both so necessary and so perilous as a catalyst for our 21st century engagement with Islam (LA Review of Books, 2014).


This book review provides insight into the life and work of arguably one of the most important historians of Islam in the 20th century, Marshall Hodgson. We recommend students read his work, The Venture of Islam, though we cannot reproduce it here for copyright reasons. Hodgson’s unique approach to Islamic and world history is characterized by terms that help us reconceptualize history and geography not in relation to Europe (as the very term “Middle East” does), but in relation to land, climate, and the rhythms of agrarian civilization.


Read: Genius Denied and Reclaimed: A 40-Year Retrospect on Marshall G.S. Hodgson’s The Venture of Islam // LA Review of Books


Guiding Questions:
  1. What was unique about the Nile-to-Oxus region? How did this uniqueness shape the religion and culture of Muslims?
  2. Why did Hodgson introduce the term Islamicate? How is it different from “Islamic”?
  3. What historical misunderstanding does Hodgson seek to correct?
  4. How has Hodgson’s work impacted the field?

Thumbnail: “De Materia Medica (Das Kräuterbuch) des Dioskurides.” Image Credit: Arabischer Maler des Kräuterbuchs des Dioskurides, 1229, at the Topkapu Saray Museum. Wikimedia Commons.