Islamic Culture in the European Enlightenment


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




During the Enlightenment, Europeans began to reappraise Islamic culture. For the first time, they accurately translated the Qur’an and Arabic poetry, and used native sources to study Islamic history. Drawing on Italian, French, English, German, and Dutch sources, this project explains how Europeans came to understand Islamic culture, as early modern globalization brought into contact the peoples, goods, and cultures of Eurasia. To justify their newfound interest in Islam, Europeans relied on comparisons to their own heterogeneous intellectual tradition. This project demonstrates the importance of global encounters to the birth of comparative philology in the Enlightenment. In a sad irony, by 1798 this new knowledge had come to serve imperial ventures; scholarship generated in the spirit of inclusion ultimately facilitated European conquest.