Arabic Science in Decline? Evidence from Counting Manuscripts
The question of the decline in Arabic science and the rise of the West has a long and storied history. In this article, I count manuscripts by author in different subject areas over time, using a 17th century Ottoman book catalogue Kashf al- Zanūn and Islamic manuscript records from over 2,500 libraries. The results of my linear and generalized differences-in-differences models support the Sunni Revival hypothesis, which argues that the political empowerment of Abbasid and Seljuk religious élite in the 11th and 12th centuries facilitated the spread of madrasa institutions, professionalized the ‘ulamā class of religious scholars, and channeled talent and state patronage away from empirical sciences and rationalist discourse. Science stagnated.
I argue, however, that the medieval decline did not occur in the context of the ‘ulema’s opposition to science as part of a nakedly reactionary ideology. Nor did the madrassa college represent the unique institutional vehicle for the decline of science. The shift toward orthodoxy involved, rather, the acceptance and assimilation of scientific research into the heart of Islamic life. These findings cast doubt on narratives that attribute intellectual stagnation in the Islamic world to the Mongol, Spanish, and Crusader invasions, the Black Death, the Medieval Climate Anomaly, or modern European colonialism.
This was my M.A. thesis. It's under review currently at some journals. Citation:
Solomon, Richard. Arabic Science in Decline? Evidence from Counting Manuscripts. Thesis. University of Chicago, 2022.
Sexual Practice and Fantasy in Colonial America and the Early Republic
I show how colonial women leveraged their unique role as mothers and breeders to secure their access to worth in society, how sexuality mapped class divisions and family relations between early American whites, how white fictions of native sexuality informed American myths of manifest destiny, and how rape and other sexual controls aided white supremacy and justified slavery. In these ways, sex functioned as a site to build and map racial hierarchies and formulate American citizenship. These hierarchies not only prescribed the role of sex in quotidian American life; they created lasting sexual traditions which continue in the present.