In the 17th and 18th centuries, a community of Catholic and Protestant scholars laid the groundwork for the modern Western understanding of Islamic religion and culture. They produced the first accurate translation of the Qur’an into a European language, mapped the branches of the Islamic arts and sciences, and wrote Islamic history using Arabic/Ottoman sources. Eventually this material was assimilated by intellectuals who wove their interpretations into the fabric of Enlightenment thought. This lecture will present the main arguments of The Republic of Arabic Letters (Harvard University Press 2018), then consider critical engagements with its thesis and exciting new scholarship that has appeared since its publication.
Alexander Bevilacqua is assistant professor of history at Williams College, in Williamstown, Massachusetts. He is the author of The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press, 2018; paperback 2020), which was selected as one of the Times Literary Supplement books of the year and awarded the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize from the American Historical Association. He is also the co-editor with Frederic Clark of Thinking in the Past Tense: Eight Conversations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2019). His most recent project, supported by the Folger Institute, examines race at the princely court of Brandenburg-Prussia.
All talks are free to attend and start at 5.15 (Zoom open at 5.00)
In-person at the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge, CB3 9DA
On Zoom: https://bit.ly/3qFSBXi