Goitein’s selection of studies dealing with Islamic history, religion, and institutions offers a wide-ranging, sensitive, and highly original introduction to a civilization by one who lived all his life studying and observing Islam. Eschewing simplistic notions, Goitein poses fundamental questions vis-à-vis Muslim religious thought and practice, the evolution of the Islamic state in the early Middle Ages, the characteristic facets of the civilization, and the periodization of its history. Although all but one of the essays deal with the first seven centuries of Islamic history, Goitein frequently draws important connections between the past and the present. A professional educator as well as researcher and scholar, Goitein with a clarity and orderliness makes his subtly reasoned conclusions accessible to students and scholars alike. He provides the reader with an opportunity to acquaint himself not only with the results of research, but also with the methods by which they were obtained. With a new foreword by Norman A. Stillman.
Shelomo Dov Goitein (1900 - 1985) was born in the village Burgkundstadt in southern Germany. He attended the universities of Frankfurt and Berlin, where he studied Islamic history under Joseph Horovitz; obtaining his doctoral degree in 1923. In 1928, he was appointed Professor of Islamic History and Islamic Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he founded the School of Asian and African studies and the Israel Oriental Society. In 1938-1948, he served as Senior Education Officer in Mandatory Palestine. From 1948, he began his life's work, A Mediterranean Society: The Jewish Communities of the Arab World as Portrayed in the Documents of the Cairo Geniza. Goitein moved to the United States in 1957 and continued his work at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. Goitein was awarded honorary degrees from many universities.