Introduction-what is in a period? Arabic historiography and periodization

Konrad Hirschler, Sarah Bowen Savant

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article introduces the question of periodization in a comparative perspective under three headings: space, subject matter, and agency. The issue of space has deeply influenced reflections on periodization as is, evident, for instance, within changed frameworks such as global history and new fields of study, such as Mediterranean or Indian Ocean Studies. For the Middle East, the rise of the concept of Late Antiquity has proven to be a particularly fruitful spatial reconfiguration that has changed established notions of periodization. The second major impact on the questions of periodization has come from changing thematic foci, most importantly, the diversification of historical studies away from the primacy of political history. In the field of Middle Eastern history, this has been particularly pertinent on account of the prominent position that dynastic periodizations have held. Finally, notions of periodization have undergone changes as the question of historical agency has been reconsidered. In the study of non-European history, such changes emerged in particular as an outcome of reflections on the degree to which such societies histories followed patterns derived from European models. The article argues that the contributions to this volume open up new venues to think of the question of periodization in Middle Eastern history by taking a long-term perspective from early Islam to the present day.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-19
Number of pages14
JournalIslam - Zeitschrift fur Geschichte und Kultur des Islamischen Orients
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 2014


  • Historical agency
  • Periodization
  • Spatial turn


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