Top critical review
4 of 5 people found this helpful
Competent, but that's it
on August 11, 2012
I found this book quite disappointing. While nicely written and comprehensive in geographical and temporal scope, it has in my view several major defects. First, it is too slanted toward the modern period. The first 1300 years of history are covered too quickly, whereas events from about 1900 on receive too much detail and far too much of the book's space. Second, it isn't adequate as a summary of recent scholarship (or even of scholarship at the time it was first published); for example, the period of Islam's beginnings, which has undergone and is still undergoing a kind of revolution in scholarly circles, is presented by Lapidus as though none of the revisionist work since the 1970s ever happened--it reads as though it could have been written in 1960. Third, the book attempts to describe various historical developments in terms of broad social, economic, and political trends; but the result is not infrequently a kind of verbal mush of generic statements that, if one were to strip out the two or three place-names and names of persons in a given paragraph, one could apply as well to 15th century France, say, as to 14th century Khurasan. In view of this, a better title for the book might have been "A Sociology of Islamic History" because one often does not sense the historical progression of events; rather, one feels events being shaped mainly by generalized social forces.