Friday, June 26

Book review. Ibn Khaldun Muqaddimah

I can't believe I haven't read this book before. And that too so late in my life. Reading this was quite interesting. It's a book written by a very opinionated Islamic scholar in 1400ad. This is few centuries after Islam was born and had two of the empires born and died already. It had expanded to close to its maximum. But before the ottomans expanded much more and a bit more before the Mughals would expand in South Asia and South east Asia will fall under the sway.
What I read was an abridged one volume version of a three volume translation of the original. So much water has flowed under the bridge and all these translations and abridgements have obviously caused much loss of clarity.
But that said it's an amazing book. You can see how he influenced people like Toynbee and Huntingdon and Carr and Robert Kennedy who were the stalwarts in the 20th century history and trying to draw broad sweeps in history.
IK doesn't talk about history as a dry enumeration of facts. Or a sequential series of dates and events like say a Thucydides or Herotodus.
Hey writes about themes. Like how dynasties rise and fall. Or about natural resources. Or economies. Or sciences. He is a great believer in cycles. That things happen in cycles. Things start in the desert like with the Arabs and bedu. And then they capture urban lands. And third generation becomes sedentary and too wide and big to control. And fourth generation is decay.
He is a believer. Don't make the mistake of thinking he's a dispassionate secular reporter. Nope. He believes in Allah Quran and Mohammad. But he's very clear headed and tells off crap like alchemy or magic. Or the shia. Or older historians.
It's not something you'll want to read if you wanted to read about the history of the Abbasids or the Spanish moorish kingdoms . More recent books will give a better picture. But you want to read this just because you want to read Josephus or Thucydides or Herodotus. How history developed. And you will be amazed at the sheer audacity intelligence and passion of this man. His thinking is missing even now. What an amazing man. Read up his biography as well.