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The Original "Introduction"

"THE ORIGINAL "introduction" (muqaddimah") to Ibn Khaldûn's great History covers only a few pages (below, pp. 15-68). As is customary in Muslim historical works, these introductory pages contain a eulogy of history. This is followed by a discussion, illustrated with historical examples, of errors historians have committed and the reasons for them. One of these is a principal reason why even great historians occasionally err, namely, their ignorance of changes in the environment within which history unfolds. The remainder of what is now called the Muqaddimah originally constituted the first book of the History, and was designed to prove this thesis. It was intended to elucidate the fundamental principles of all history, which determine the true historian's reconstruction of the past ..." (op. cit., ibid., Vol. I, p. lxviii)
© Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York, N. Y.
© Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York, N. Y.

"However, during its author's lifetime the original introduction and the first book became an independent work known under the title Muqaddimah. In the 1394 edition of his Autobiography, Ibn Khaldûn speaks of the first book of his History in this way. At the same time, the table of contents prefixed to our oldest manuscripts of the Muqaddimah states that "this first book went by the name of Muqaddimah until (that name) came to be a characteristic proper name for it."Thus, it is not surprising that, in a late addition to the Muqaddimah itself, Ibn Khaldûn refers to it as the Muqaddimah and that he gave lectures exclusively devoted to it. To all later ages, Muqaddimah was the title almost universally used.

With respect to its literary form, the Muqaddimah would not seem to deserve unqualified praise. Like the last two volumes of the History, it is Ibn Khaldûn's original creation in the main; it is not influenced by the literary character of its sources, as is frequently the case in Muslim historical writing and as is the case with the middle volumes of Ibn Khaldûn's work. The Muqaddimah was written in the precise, cultured speech that was used in academic discussion by Ibn Khaldûn, his friends, and his contemporaries in the Muslim West. This language is as much, or as little, down-to-earth as the formal speech of the educated anywhere in the world  tends to be. Both the language and the style of the Muqaddimah clearly reflect the discursive manner of the academic lecturer, concerned primarily with an audience that is listening to him, and driving his points home viva voce. A large segment of Muslim literature was influenced in style and content by classroom needs; thus, it became customary and easy for an author to use the lecture tyle even when not writing for school use or for a listening audience. This was the case when Ibn Khaldûn wrote the Muqaddimah, quite apart from the consideration that he used the work later as a textbook for lectures ..." (op. cit., ibid., pp. lxviii-lxix)

The Muqaddimah - The Introduction and Book One of the World History, entitled Kitâb al-'Ibar, of Ibn Khaldûn

"The excellence of historiography. - An appreciation of the various approaches to history. - A glimpse at the different kinds of errors to which historians are liable. Something about why these errors occur."

(translated by R. A. Nicholson, Translations of Eastern Poetry and Prose, Cambridge, 1922)

The Introduction of the World History © Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York, N.Y.
The Introduction of the World History © Bollingen Foundation Inc., New York, N.Y.
n.b.: The following four pages were translated by R. A. Nicholson, Translations of Eastern Poetry and Prose (Cambridge, 1922), pp.176-79. The Arabic text, down to p. 56, l. so, of this translation, was edited with notes and a glossary by D. B. Macdonald, A Selection from the Prolegomena of Ibn Khaldûn (Semitic Study Series, No.4) (Leiden, 1905; repr. 1948)

Extract from "The Introduction" (The Muqaddimah)

"IT SHOULD BE KNOWN that history is a discipline that has a great number of (different) approaches. Its useful aspects are very many. Its goal is distinguished. (History) makes us acquainted with the conditions of past nations as they are reflected in their (national) character. It makes us acquainted with the biographies of the prophets and with the dynasties and policies of rulers. Whoever so desires may thus achieve the useful result of being able to imitate historical examples in religious and wordly matters. The (writing of history) requires numerous sources and greatly varied knowledge. It also requires a good speculative mind and thoroughness. (Possession of these two qualities) leads the historian to the truth and keeps him from slips and errors. If he trusts historical information in its plain transmitted form and has no clear knowledge of the principles resulting from custom, the fundamental facts of politics, the nature of civilization, or the conditions governing human social organization, and if, furthermore, he does not evaluate remote or ancient material through comparison with near or contemporary material, he often cannot avoid stumbling and slipping and deviating from the highroad of thruth. Historians, Qur' ân commentators and leading transmitters have committed frequent errors in the stories and events they reported. They accepted them in the plain transmitted form, without regard for its value. They did not check them with the principles underlying such historical situations, nor did they compare them with similar material. Also, they did not probe (more deeply) with the yardstick of philosophy, with the help of knowledge of the nature of things, or with the help of speculation and historical insight. THerefore, they strayed from thruth and found themselves lost in the desert of baseless assumptions and errors ..." (op. cit., ibid., Vol.1, pp. 15-16)