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Michael Cook (historian)

Michael Allan Cook FBA (born in 1940) is a British historian and scholar of Islamic history.



He studied History and Oriental Studies at King's College, Cambridge 1959-1963 and did postgraduate studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) of the University of London 1963-1966 under the supervision of Professor Bernard Lewis. He was lecturer in Economic History with reference to the Middle East at SOAS 1966-1984 and Reader in the History of the Near and Middle East 1984-1986. In 1986 he was appointed Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Since 2007 he has been Class of 1943 University Professor of Near Eastern Studies. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in Spring 1990.[1]


In Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (1977), Cook and his associate Patricia Crone provided a new analysis of early Islamic history by studying the only surviving contemporary accounts of the rise of Islam. They fundamentally questioned the historicity of the Islamic traditions about the beginnings of Islam. Thus they tried to produce the picture of Islam's beginnings only from non-Arabic sources. By studying the only surviving contemporary accounts of the rise of Islam, which were written in Armenian, Greek, Aramaic and Syriac by witnesses, they reconstructed a significantly different story of Islam's beginnings, compared with the story known from the Islamic traditions. Cook and Crone claimed to be able to explain exactly how Islam came into being by the fusion of various near eastern civilizations under Arabic leadership. Later, Michael Cook refrained from this attempt of a detailed reconstruction of Islam's beginnings, and concentrated on Islamic ethics and law.[2]

Cook's main work is Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought (2000), in which he analyses the historical development of Islamic ethics from the beginnings through the centuries till today.


R. B. Serjeant describes Hagarism as "bitterly anti-Islamic" and "anti-Arabian."[3]

Cook's most recent work, Ancient Religions, Modern Politics (2014), has been criticized by Duke Religion scholar, Bruce Lawrence, as an "anti-Islam manifesto."[4]



  • Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, 1977, with Patricia Crone.
  • Early Muslim Dogma: A Source-Critical Study, 1981.
  • Muhammad (Past Masters), 1983.
  • The Koran: A Very Short Introduction, 2000.
  • Commanding Right and Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought, 2001 (Winner of the Albert Hourani Book Award).
  • Forbidding Wrong in Islam: An Introduction (Themes in Islamic History), 2003.
  • Studies in the Origins of Early Islamic Culture and Tradition, 2004.
  • A Brief History of the Human Race, 2005.
  • Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic Case in Comparative Perspective, 2014


  1. ^ Michael Allan Cook at Holberg Prize page
  2. ^ Holberg Price 2014: About Michael Cook
  3. ^ Serjeant, R. B. (1978). "Review of Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation, ; Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland (1): 76–78. JSTOR 25210922.
  4. ^ Lawrence, Bruce B. (2017-06-01). "Ancient Religions, Modern Politics: The Islamic Case in Comparative Perspective. By Michael Cook". Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 85 (2): 555–558. doi:10.1093/jaarel/lfx014. ISSN 0002-7189.
  5. ^ Albert Hourani Book Award Archived 2010-05-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ 2002 Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients Mellon Foundation
  7. ^ Members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences Retrieved 10 February 2010
  8. ^ "Honorary Doctorates at Leiden for Arabists Patricia Crone & Michael Cook and for translator Rien Verhoef". Leiden University. Retrieved 9 February 2013.

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