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The History of Libraries in the Arab World: A Diffusionist Model

Arnold H. Green
Libraries & Culture
Vol. 23, No. 4 (Fall, 1988), pp. 454-473
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25542092
Page Count: 20
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The History of Libraries in the Arab World: A Diffusionist Model
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Abstract

Library history in Arab societies is linked to interaction among civilizations. Adapting their Hellenized subjects' institutions, from ca. 700 the Arabs produced mosque and palace libraries. Sophisticated research libraries materialized when Arab-Islamic civilization acquired more of the Hellenistic legacy and via global trade routes acquired techniques like paper-manufacturing. Subsequently, while madrasa libraries flourished, library development stalled as cultural interaction ebbed from classical levels. Arab societies have recently interacted with modern Europe. While colonialism entailed strategic constraints on Europeans' willingness to lend and psychological constraints on nationalist Arabs' inclination to borrow, through travelers, notables, and Western-trained Arab librarians, modern libraries and library education have been among the institutions diffused from Europe to the Arab world during the last two centuries. As an explanatory model for library history, diffusion may well apply to other societies having traditions of interaction with neighboring high cultures and/or with modern European powers.

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