Bernard Lewis (1926-), British author and professor

Lewis is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus, at Princeton University and probably the West’s foremost expert on the Islamic world.

Lewis was educated at the University of London, earning his BA and PhD in history. With the exception of his service in the British Foreign Office during World War II as a specialist in the Middle East, he has been teaching since 1938. From 1938 to 1974, he taught at the University of London; in 1974 he was recruited by Princeton.

Throughout his career, Lewis has specialized in the study of the Islamic world, from the day of Muhammad to contemporary politics. He is said to be fluent in Arabic, Aramaic, French, German, Hebrew, Latin, Persian, Turkish, and other languages. He is notable for examining the history of the Islamic world and using it to examine the current political scene. The main thrust (and note that I’m greatly simplifying things here) of much of his work is that Islam, the world’s great cultural and military power in the middle ages, has lost its place as king of the hill and the fact that the infidels are in charge is the cause of current resentment towards America and the west.

Lewis was among the targets of Edward Said’s notable 1978 work Orientalism, which claimed that Western academic study of the Middle East was a form of cultural imperialism. Lewis’ old school approach to historical study was unfashionable in postmodernist terms, but now he’s back in favor in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks: his work is in high demand and he has been consulted by world leaders. Said, meanwhile, is still denouncing Lewis in the pages of The Nation and elsewhere for believing in silly concepts like “The West” and “Islam”.

Lewis’ classic 1990 essay from The Atlantic, “The Roots of Muslim Rage”: http://www.theatlantic.com/issues/90sep/rage.htm

Said versus Lewis in The Nation: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20011022&s=said

Some of Lewis’ dozens of books:

The Arabs in History, London 1950;
The Emergence of Modern Turkey, London and New York 1961
The Assassins, London 1967
The Muslim Discovery of Europe, New York 1982
The Political Language of Islam, Chicago 1988
Race and Slavery in the Middle East: an Historical Enquiry, New York 1990
Islam and the West, New York, 1993
Islam in History, 2nd edition, Chicago, 1993
The Shaping of the Modern Middle East, New York, 1994
Cultures in Conflict, New York, 1994
The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years, New York, 1995
The Future of the Middle East, London, 1997
The Multiple Identities of the Middle East, London, 1998
A Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of life, letters and history, New York, 2000

Sources: http://slate.msn.com//?id=2058632; http://www.princeton.edu/~nes/profiles/Lewis.htm

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