Claude Cahen

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Claude Cahen (26 February 1909 – 18 November 1991) was a French Marxist orientalist and historian. He specialized in the studies of the Islamic Middle Ages, Muslim sources about the Crusades, and social history of the medieval Islamic society (works on Futuwa orders).

Claude Cahen was born in Paris to a French Jewish family.[1] After studying at the École Normale Supérieure on the rue d'Ulm, he attended the Institut national des langues et civilisations orientales, receiving a doctorate in 1940. He was a professor at the University of Strasbourg from 1945 to 1959 and then at the Sorbonne; in 1967 he was invited to teach at the University of Michigan, and in 1973, he was elected to the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres.

Cahen was married and had six children, including the historian Michel Cahen, who wrote a biography of his father.[2] Cahen was a member of the French Communist Party from the 1930s until 1960, and remained an active Marxist afterwards. Despite his origins, he neither self-identified as Jewish nor supported the State of Israel.[1]

In 1954 he published "An Introduction to the First Crusade" in the Oxford journal Past and Present.[3] Cahen has been called "the doyen of Islamic social history and one of the most influential Islamic historians of [his] century,"[4] and "the best historian of the Middle East in the twentieth century." Mark Cohen describes him as a distinguished Islamic historian.[5] He was a prisoner of war in World War II.[1] The Festschrift Itineraires d'Orient: Hommages a Claude Cahen, edited by Raoul Curiel and Rika Gyselen, appeared in 1995 as an honor to his "distinguished career."[6] and an issue of the journal Arabica (43/1 (1996)) was dedicated to him. That issue also includes a nearly complete bibliography of his works.


  1. ^ a b c Ira M. Lapidus, review of Curiel and Gyselen (1995), Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient 39.2 (1996), pp. 189-90
  2. ^ Michel CAHEN: L'Historien et le Politique: Engagement et Pensée Scientifique chez Claude Cahen. Réflexions et quelques Souvenirs d'un Fils sur son Père in Itinéraires de l’Orient: Hommages à Claude Cahen, ed R Curiel and R Gyselen, Res Orientales 6 (Bures-sur-Yvette, France, 1994), pp 385-442.
  3. ^ "Past and Present -- Table of Contents (1954, 6)". Retrieved 2006-03-09. 
  4. ^ Paul M. Cobb, review of Curiel and Gyselen (1995) in Journal of Near Eastern Studies 57 (1998), p. 220
  5. ^ Mark Cohen (1994) p.xvii
  6. ^ Journal of the American Oriental Society, October 1998