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Sir Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb FBA (2 January 1895 – 22 October 1971), known as H. A. R. Gibb,[2] was a Scottish historian on Orientalism.[3]

Sir H. A. R. Gibb

Hamilton Gibb.jpg
Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb

(1895-01-02)2 January 1895
Alexandria, Egypt
Died22 October 1971(1971-10-22) (aged 76)
Helen Jessie Stark
(m. 1922; died 1969)
Academic background
Alma mater
Academic work
Notable studentsWilfred Cantwell Smith[1]

Early life and educationEdit

Gibb was born on Wednesday, 2 January 1895, in Alexandria, Egypt, to Alexander Crawford Gibb (son of John Gibb of Gladstone, Renfrewshire, Scotland) and Jane Ann Gardner (of Greenock, Scotland). Alexander Crawford died in 1897, following which Gardner took up a teaching position in Alexandria. Hamilton returned to Scotland for his formal education at the age of five: first, four years of private tuition, after which he started at the Royal High School, Edinburgh in 1904, staying until 1912. His education was focused on classics, though it included French, German, and the physical sciences. In 1912, Hamilton matriculated at Edinburgh University, joining the new honours program in Semitic languages (Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic). Hamilton's mother died in 1913 as he was studying in his second year at the university.

Military serviceEdit

During World War I Gibb broke off his studies at the University of Edinburgh to serve for the British Royal Regiment of Artillery in France (from February 1917) and for several months in Italy as a commissioned officer. (He was commissioned at the age of 19.)

He was awarded a "war privilege" Master of Arts because of his service, until the Armistice with Germany in November 1918.

Academic careerEdit

After the war Gibb studied Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies at London University, gaining his MA in 1922.[4] His thesis, published later by the Royal Asiatic Society as a monograph, was on the Arab conquests of Central Asia.

From 1921 to 1937 Gibb taught Arabic literature at the then School of Oriental Studies, becoming a professor there in 1930.[5] During this time he was an editor of the Encyclopaedia of Islam.[4] Among his students was the British Arabist and Reader in Arabic, James Heyworth-Dunne.[6] In 1937 Gibb succeeded D. S. Margoliouth as Laudian Professor of Arabic with a Fellowship at St John's College, Oxford, where he stayed for eighteen years.[4]

In 1955, Gibb became the James Richard Jewett Professor of Arabic and University Professor at Harvard University.[4][5]

Personal lifeEdit

Also in 1922 Gibb married Helen Jessie Stark. They had one son, Ian (1923–2005), and one daughter, Dorothy (1926–?, now Dorothy Greenslade).[4]

Gibb died on 22 October 1971.



  • Ottoman Poems Translated into English Verse in the Original Forms (1882), Trübner & Company.
  • A History of Ottoman Poetry (vol. 1 1900 - vol. 6 1909), Luzac and Company.
  • Arabic Literature – An Introduction (1926), also (1963), Clarendon Press and (1974), Oxford University Press.
  • Ibn Batuta, 1304–1377 (1929), (Arabic: Tuhfat al-'anzar fi ghara'ib al-'amsar‎), English translation by Gibb.
  • Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325–1354 (1929), translated and selected with an introduction and notes, R. M. McBride. ISBN 81-206-0809-7
  • Note by Professor H. A. R. Gibb (1939), from Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, Part I. C I (b) Annex I, p. 400-02.
  • Modern Trends in Islam (1947).
  • Mohammedanism: An Historical Survey (1949) retitled Islam: An Historical Survey (1980), Oxford.
  • Islamic Society and the West with Harold Bowen (vol. 1 1950, vol. 2 1957).
  • Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam (1953), edited with J. H. Kramers, Brill.
  • The Encyclopaedia of Islam (1954– ), new ed. Edited by a number of leading orientalists, including Gibb, under the patronage of the International Union of Academies. Leiden: Brill, along with that edited by J. H. Kramers, and E. Levi-Provençal.
  • "Islamic Biographical Literature," (1962) in Historians of the Middle East, eds. Bernard Lewis and P. M. Holt, Oxford U. Press.
  • Studies on the Civilization of Islam (1982), Princeton U. Press.


  1. ^ Cameron, Roberta Llewellyn (1997). The Making of Wilfred Cantwell Smith's "World Theology" (PDF) (PhD thesis). Montreal: Concordia University. p. 10. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  2. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. (Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen) (1895–1971). National Library of Australia. Accessed 3 June 2013.
  3. ^ Albert Hourani, "Gibb, Sir Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen (1895–1971)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 6 August 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e George Makdisi, "Biographical Notice," pgs. xv–xvii. Taken from Arabic and Islamic Studies, in Honor of Hamilton A. R. Gibb. Ed. Giorgio Levi Della Vida. Leiden: Brill Publishers, 1965.
  5. ^ a b "H.A.R. Gibb," The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970–1979).
  6. ^ Aṣ-Ṣūlī, Abū Bakr Muḥammad b. Yaḥyā (1936). Heyworth-Dunne, James (ed.). "Kitāb al-Awrāq: Ashʻar Awlad al-Khulafaʼ wa Akhbaruhum". E. J. W. Memorial Trust (in Arabic). London: Luzac & Co.: (Preface, p.11).

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