Much historiography of the last three decades has undermined the sway of Eurocentrism. Though unabashedly Eurocentric histories still become bestsellers,1 revisionists have shown that the ideas and developments that spawned modernity hardly sprang sui generis from European soil. In their historic re-awakening starting at the end of the Middle Ages that ushered in the Renaissance, Reformation, Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, Europeans borrowed and augmented a vast array of ideas, institutions, and practices particularly from Islamic, but also Indian and Chinese, civilization.2
This article contends that such revisionism, itself now putative, does not probe searchingly enough the inter-civilizational encounter with Islam. The revisionist perspective underestimates or altogether overlooks not only the grave diffidence that Europeans (Latin Christians) developed through their medieval rivalry with Muslims, but, more importantly, the pivotal role that such civilizational solicitude played in motivating the urge to reform. Self-deprecation born of defeat against the archrival initiated the pattern of relentless introspection that led Europeans to question the foundations of the medieval order.
Brigham Young University
O'Brien, P. (2011). Islamic civilization and (western) modernity. Comparative Civilizations Review, 65, 18-32.
Comparative Civilizations Review