“History never really says goodbye.

History says, ‘See you later.”

–Eduardo Galeano

Bust of Ibn Khaldoun in the entrance of the Kasbah of Bejaia, Algeria.

 

Abd al-Rahmanibn Khaldun, the well known historian and thinker from Muslim 14th-century North Africa, is considered a forerunner of original theories in social sciences and philosophy of history, as well as the author of original views in economics, prefiguring modern contributions.

In 1375, craving solitude from the exhausting business of politics, IbnKhaldūn took the most momentous step of his life: he sought refuge with the tribe of Awlād’Arīf, who lodged him and his family in the safety of a castle, Qal’atibn Salāmah, near what is now the town of Frenda, Algeria. There he spent four years, “free from all preoccupations,” and wrote his massive masterpiece, the Muqaddimah, an introduction to history.

It is important to note that his original intention, which he subsequently achieved, was to write a universal history of the Arabs and Berbers, but before doing so he judged it necessary to discuss historical method, with the aim of providing the criteria necessary for distinguishing historical truth from error. This led him to formulate what the 20th-century English historian Arnold Toynbee has described as “a philosophy of history which is undoubtedly the greatest work of its kind that has ever yet been created by any mind in any time or place,” Thinkers as diverse as Ernest Gellner and Arnold Toynbee have paid tribute to the lasting fertility of Kaldun’s work.