|Died||July 11, 2015 (aged 70)|
Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.
|Main interests||Islamic studies; Quranic (Islamic) studies; scriptural exegesis; scholarship on Islamic origins|
|Notable works||Hagarism (with M.A. Cook); Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam|
Patricia Crone (March 28, 1945 – July 11, 2015) was a Danish Orientalist, and historian specializing in early Islamic history. Crone was a member of the Revisionist school of Islamic studies and questioned the historicity of the Islamic traditions about the beginnings of Islam.
After taking the forprøve (preliminary exam) at University of Copenhagen, she went to Paris to learn French, and then to London where she determined to get into a university to become fluent in English. In 1974, she earned her PhD at the University of London, where she was a senior research fellow at the Warburg Institute until 1977. 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. She served as University Lecturer in Islamic studies from 1992 to 1994, and as Reader in Islamic history from 1994-97.
In 1997, she was appointed to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she was named as Andrew W. Mellon Professor. In 2001, she was elected to the American Philosophical Society. From 2002 until her death in 2015, she was a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Social Evolution & History.
She died on July 11, 2015, aged 70, from cancer.
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.
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. Later, Crone refrained from this attempt of a detailed reconstruction of Islam's beginnings. Yet she continued to maintain the basic results of her work:
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. 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.
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".
Crone's work has challenged long-held explanations and provided new approaches for the social, economic, legal and religious patterns that transformed Late Antiquity.