Patricia Crone

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Patricia Crone
Patricia-Crone 2013 Courtesy-of-Leiden-University.jpg
Born(1945-03-28)March 28, 1945
DiedJuly 11, 2015(2015-07-11) (aged 70)
Academic work
Main interestsIslamic studies; Quranic (Islamic) studies; scriptural exegesis; scholarship on Islamic origins
Notable worksHagarism (with M.A. Cook); Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam

Patricia Crone (March 28, 1945 – July 11, 2015) was a Danish historian specializing in early Islamic history.[1][2] Crone was a member of the Revisionist school of Islamic studies and questioned the historicity of the Islamic traditions about the beginnings of Islam.[3]

Early life, family and education[edit]

Crone was born in Kyndeløse Sydmark (south of Kyndeløse) 23 km northwest of Roskilde in Roskilde County, Denmark, on March 28, 1945.[4]

After taking the forprøve (preliminary exam) at University of Copenhagen, she went to Paris to learn French, and then to London where she was determined to get into a university to become fluent in English. In 1974, she earned her Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London with a thesis titled "The Mawali in the Umayyad period".[5] She was then a senior research fellow at the Warburg Institute until 1977.[citation needed] She was accepted as an occasional student at King's College London and followed a course in medieval European history, especially church-state relations.


In 1977, Crone became a University Lecturer in Islamic history and a fellow of Jesus College, Oxford. Crone became Assistant University Lecturer in Islamic studies and fellow of Gonville and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge in 1990 and held several positions at Cambridge.[6] She served as University Lecturer in Islamic studies from 1992 to 1994, and as Reader in Islamic history from 1994 to 1997.

In 1997, she was appointed to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she was named as Andrew W. Mellon Professor.[7] In 2001, she was elected to the American Philosophical Society.[8] From 2002 until her death in 2015, she was a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Social Evolution & History.[9]


In November 2011, Crone was diagnosed with lung cancer, that had already spread to the brain.[10] She died on July 11, 2015, aged 70, from said cancer.[11]


The major theme of Patricia Crone's scholarly life was the fundamental questioning of the historicity of Islamic sources which concern the beginnings of Islam. Her two best-known works concentrate on this topic: Hagarism and Meccan Trade. Three decades after Hagarism, Fred Donner called Crone's work a "milestone" in the field of Orientalist study of Islam.[12]

Though she began as a scholar of broader military and economic history of the Near and Middle East, Crone's later career focused mainly on "the Qur'an and the cultural and religious traditions of Iraq, Iran, and the formerly Iranian part of Central Asia".[13]


In their book Hagarism (1977), Crone and her associate Michael Cook, both then working at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, provided a new analysis of early Islamic history. They fundamentally questioned the historicity of the Islamic traditions about the beginnings of Islam. They tried to produce a 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 actual witnesses, they reconstructed a story of Islam's beginnings that differs from the story told by Islamic traditions. Crone and Cook claimed to be able to explain exactly how Islam came into being by the fusion of various Near Eastern civilizations under Arabic leadership.[14]

Fred M. Donner viewed the book as a "wake-up call": despite initial repudiation, it set a milestone by pointing out that scholars need to "consider a much more varied body of source material than most were used to using, or trained to use." On the other hand, he criticized the book's indiscriminate use of non-Muslim sources and the "labyrinthine" arguments incomprehensible even to many who had strong specialist training.[12]

Oleg Grabar described Hagarism as a "brilliant, fascinating, original, arrogant, highly debatable book" and writes that "the authors' fascination with lapidary formulas led them to cheap statements or to statements which require unusual intellectual gymnastics to comprehend and which become useless, at best cute" and that "... the whole construction proposed by the authors lacks entirely in truly historical foundations" while also praising the authors for trying to "relate the Muslim phenomenon to broad theories of acculturation and historical change."[15]

Robert Bertram Serjeant wrote that Hagarism is "not only bitterly anti-Islamic in tone, but anti-Arabian. Its superficial fancies are so ridiculous that at first one wonders if it is just a 'leg pull', pure 'spoof'."[16]

Michael G. Morony remarked that "Despite a useful bibliography, this is a thin piece of Kulturgeschichte full of glib generalizations, facile assumptions, and tiresome jargon. More argument than evidence, it suffers all the problems of intellectual history, including reification and logical traps."[17]

Later, Crone backed away from some proposals in this reconstruction of Islam's beginnings.[18] She continued to maintain the basic results of her work:

  • The historicity of Islamic sources on Islam's beginnings has to be fundamentally questioned.
  • Islam has deep roots in Judaism, and Arabs and Jews were allies.
  • Not Mecca but a different place in northwestern Arabia was the cradle of Islam.[19]

Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam[edit]

In Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (1987), Crone argued that the importance of the pre-Islamic Meccan trade had been grossly exaggerated. Furthermore, she found that Mecca was never part of any of the major ancient trade routes. She also suggested that while Muhammad never traveled much beyond the Hijaz, internal evidence in the Qur'an, such as its description of his opponents as "olive growers", might indicate that the events surrounding Muhammed took place nearer the Mediterranean than in Mecca.[20] Meccan Trade was judged a "devastating critique of a commonplace of current historiographical accounts of the rise of Islam" in a review by Frederick S. Paxton published in The Journal of Asian Studies.[21]

Robert Bertram Serjeant described the book as a "confused, irrational and illogical polemic, further complicated by her misunderstanding of Arabic texts, her lack of comprehension of the social structure of Arabia, and twisting of the clear sense of other writings, ancient and modern, to suit her contentions."[22]

Abdullah al-Andalusi of the Muslim Debate Initiative contended Crone's placing Islamic events not in Mecca, but closer to the Mediterranean Sea, stating: "If there was a proto-Islamic sect pre-dating Meccan Islam existing at Abdat or elsewhere in Nabatean borderland between Arabia and the Roman Empire, an advanced and literate society with extensive trade links with the rest of the Roman world, it is surely utterly implausible that no sect, nor text of a sect, nor witness to the sect would have survived."[23]



  • with Michael Cook, Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, first published in 1977; ISBN 0-521-21133-6 Free online version at
  • with Martin Hinds, God's Caliph: Religious Authority in the First Centuries of Islam (first published 1986); ISBN 0-521-54111-5
  • with Shmuel Moreh, The Book of Strangers: Medieval Arabic Graffiti on the Theme of Nostalgia (1999) Princeton Series on the Middle-East; ISBN 978-1558762152
  • with Fritz Zimmermann, The epistle of Sālim ibn Dhakwān (2001) Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press; ISBN 0-19-815265-5.[24]

Sole author[edit]


Semi-popular articles[edit]


  1. ^ "Library of Congress LCCN Permalink n79063908". Library of Congress.
  2. ^ "Patricia Crone: memoir of a superb Islamic scholar".
  3. ^ Stille, Alexander (2002-03-02). "Scholars Are Quietly Offering New Theories of the Koran". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
  4. ^ Obituary,; accessed July 23, 2015.
  5. ^ Crone, Patricia (1973). The Mawali in the Umayyad period. E-Thesis Online Service (Ph.D). The British Library Board. Retrieved 19 July 2022.
  6. ^ "INSTITUTE APPOINTS NEW FACULTY MEMBERS". Archived from the original on December 8, 2004. Retrieved June 20, 2012.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link); "Dr. Crone, who is presently at Cambridge University, will be in residence at the Institute as of the beginning of the fall term in September 1997".
  7. ^ "Faculty and Emeriti". Institute for Advanced Study. Archived from the original on March 4, 2007. Retrieved January 24, 2007. Crone's work has challenged long-held explanations and provided new approaches for the social, economic, legal and religious patterns that transformed Late Antiquity.
  8. ^ "APS Member History". Retrieved 2021-07-08.
  9. ^ Social Evolution & History website; accessed July 17, 2015.
  10. ^ Arntzenius, Linda (24 December 2014). "IAS Professor's "Adventures in Potland" In Search of Treatment for Lung Cancer". Princeton Magazine.
  11. ^ Herrin, Judith (12 July 2015). "Patricia Crone: memoir of a superb Islamic scholar". openDemocracy.
  12. ^ a b Donner, Fred M. (December 2006). "Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World". Middle East Studies Association Bulletin (Review). 40 (2): 197–199. doi:10.1017/S0026318400049853. JSTOR 23062875. S2CID 164489214.
  13. ^ "Patricia Crone". Archived from the original on 13 March 2010.
  14. ^ Patricia Crone: Hagarism, 1977; pp. 106, 120 ff., and others
  15. ^ Grabar, Oleg (1978). "Review of Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World". Speculum. 53 (4): 795–799. doi:10.2307/2849793. ISSN 0038-7134. JSTOR 2849793.
  16. ^ 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. doi:10.1017/S0035869X00134264. ISSN 0035-869X. JSTOR 25210922.
  17. ^ Morony, Michael G. (1982). "Review of Hagarism". Journal of Near Eastern Studies. 41 (2): 157–159. doi:10.1086/372945. ISSN 0022-2968. JSTOR 544677.
  18. ^ Toby Lester (January 1999). "What is the Koran?". The Atlantic.
  19. ^ Crone, Patricia; Cook, Michael (1977). Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (First ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-521-21133-6.
  20. ^ Patricia Crone: Hagarism, 1977; p. 24
  21. ^ PAXTON, FREDERICK S. (August 1989). "Book Review of Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam". The Journal of Asian Studies. 48 (3): 575. Retrieved 14 April 2020.
  22. ^ Serjeant, R. B.; Crone, Patricia (1990). "Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam: Misconceptions and Flawed Polemics". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 110 (3): 472. doi:10.2307/603188. JSTOR 603188.
  23. ^ Al Andalusi, Abdullah (20 October 2012). "Tom Holland's Obsession with Islam's Origins: A Critical response". Muslim Debate Initiative. Retrieved 31 May 2017.
  24. ^ Custers, Martin H. (2016). Al-Ibāḍiyya: A Bibliography, Volume 3 (Second revised and enlarged ed.). Hildesheim-London-N.Y.: Olms Publishing. p. 186.

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