Philip K. Hitti

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Philip Khuri Hitti (Arabic: فيليب خوري حتي; Shimlan 22 June 1886 – Princeton 24 December 1978) was a Lebanese-American professor and scholar at Princeton and Harvard University, and authority on Arab and Middle Eastern history, Islam, and Semitic languages. He almost single-handedly created the discipline of Arabic studies in the United States.[1][2] His grandniece was the now deceased NASA astronaut and schoolteacher Christa McAuliffe.


Early life[edit]

Philip Khuri Hitti was born in the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate, on 22 June 1886, into a Maronite Christian family, in the village of Shemlan some 25 km southeast from Beirut, up in Mount Lebanon.

Education and academic career[edit]

He was educated at an American Presbyterian mission school at Suq al-Gharb and then at the Syrian Protestant College. After graduating in 1908 he taught there before moving to Columbia University, where he earned his PhD in 1915 and taught Semitic languages. After World War I he returned to Lebanon and taught there until 1926. In February 1926 he was offered a Chair at Princeton University, which he held until he retired in 1954. During World War II, he taught Arabic to servicemen at Princeton through the Army Specialized Training Program (including future Ambassador Rodger Paul Davies).[2][3] Hitti was both Professor of Semitic Literature and Chairman of the Department of Oriental Languages. After formal retirement he accepted a position at Harvard University. He also taught in the summer schools at the University of Utah and George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He subsequently held a research position at the University of Minnesota.

Opinion on Arab-Jewish conflict over Palestine[edit]

In 1944 before a U. S. House committee, Hitti gave testimony in support of the view that there was no historical justification for a Jewish homeland in the Palestine. His testimony was reprinted in the Princeton Herald. In response, Albert Einstein and his friend and colleague Erich Kahler jointly replied in the same newspaper with their counter-arguments. Hitti then published a response and Einstein and Kahler concluded the debate in the Princeton Herald with their second response.[4] In 1945 Hitti served as an adviser to the Iraqi delegation at the San Francisco Conference which established the United Nations. In 1946, Hitti was the first Lebanese-American witness at the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine. Bartley Crum, an American member of the committee, recalled that

Hitti... explained that there was actually no such entity as Palestine - never had been; it was historically part of Syria, and "the Sunday schools have done a great deal of harm to us because by smearing the walls of classrooms with maps of Palestine, they associate it with the Jews in the minds of the average American and Englishman."
He traced the history of Palestine back 7000 years. All that time, he said, it had been the immemorial home of the Arabs. He asserted that Zionism was indefensible and unfeasible on moral, historic and practical grounds. It was an imposition on the Arabs of an alien way of life which they resented and to which they would never submit.[5]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cook, Joan (28 December 1978). "PHILIP HITTI, EXPERT ON ARABIC CULTURE". The New York Times. Mr. Hitti, who was the first director of Princeton's Near Eastern Studies program, was considered a leading authority in the United States on Arabic and Islamic culture and one of the first persons in any American university to appreciate and promote the importance of the Arab world in this country.
  2. ^ a b "Saudi Aramco World : A Talk With Philip Hitti". History of the Arabs, first published in 1937 and now going into its tenth edition, is probably the single most important book ever published in America on the subject of Arabs. "There is no comparable book on the subject," an Arab historian in Beirut said recently. "On the Arabs alone, nothing in the West since 1937 has matched Hitti's contribution."
  3. ^ "Jones | ASTP: Foreign Service Gateway". Archived from the original on 2018-04-12. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
  4. ^ Rowe, D. E.; Schulmann, R. J., (eds.) (2007). Einstein on politics. Princeton U. Press. pp. 315–316. ISBN 978-0-691-12094-2. {{cite book}}: |author2= has generic name (help)CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Crum, Bartley C. Behind The Silken Curtain. Page 25. Victor Gollancz Ltd., London. 1947.
  6. ^ Hitti, Philip Khuri (October 1, 1996). The Arabs: A Short History. Regnery Publishing. ISBN 9780895267061 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "Syria: A Short History". Macmillan co., New York. November 2, 1959 – via Internet Archive.

External links[edit]