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Der Islam

Journal of the History and Culture of the Middle East

Ed. by Heidemann, Stefan / Hagen, Gottfried / Kaplony, Andreas / Matthee, Rudi

CiteScore 2017: 0.04

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.100

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Volume 91, Issue 1


Periodization as a Tool of the Historian with Special Reference to Islamic History

Fred M. Donner
Published Online: 2014-05-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/islam-2014-0003

Abstract: The article discusses periodization and spatialization – delimiting a particular length of time, a particular region of the globe, or both – as necessary strategems for studying history, since the seamless web of human life cannot be analyzed in toto. It discusses different notions of periodization, in particular those advanced by Fernand Braudel and others of the Annales School and the concept of “Zeitschichten” proposed by Reinhart Koselleck. It surveys some of the periodizations that have traditionally been applied specifically in the realm of the history of the Islamic Near East and a number of essays discussing the periodization of Islamic history (especially those of S. D. Goitein and M. Morony). It argues that the notion of an “ideal” or “perfect” periodization of history (or of any subsection of it) that meets all needs is futile. Periodization must be seen, rather, as a tool employed by the historian that highlights a particular set of developments in a society, so that many different periodizations are possible and, indeed, desirable depending on what the historian wishes to understand. The historian must consider what development she wishes to articulate from the past and choose or fashion a periodization that most clearly illuminates that development.

: periodization; historiography; early Islamic history

About the article

Published Online: 2014-05-01

Published in Print: 2014-05-01

Citation Information: Der Islam, Volume 91, Issue 1, Pages 20–36, ISSN (Online) 1613-0928, ISSN (Print) 0021-1818, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/islam-2014-0003.

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