Patricia Crone

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-American author, Orientalist, and historian specializing in early Islamic history.[1] Crone was a member of the Revisionist school of Islamic studies and questioned the historicity of the Islamic traditions about the beginnings of Islam.[2]

Life and career

Crone was born in Kyndeløse Sydmark (south of Kyndeløse) 23 km northwest of Roskilde in Roskilde County, Denmark, on March 28, 1945.[3] After taking the forprøve, or 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.[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.[4] 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.[5] From 2002 until her death in 2015, she was a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Social Evolution & History.[6]

She died on July 11, 2015, aged 70, from cancer.[7]


The major theme of Crone's scholarly life was the fundamental questioning of the historicity of Islamic sources about the beginnings of Islam. Crone's two most known works concentrate on this topic: Hagarism and Meccan Trade. Three decades after Hagarism, Fred Donner called Patricia Crone's work a "milestone" in the field of Orientalist study of Islam.[8]

In their book Hagarism (1977), Crone and her associate Michael Cook, working at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London at the time, 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 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. 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.[9] Later, Patricia Crone refrained from this attempt of a detailed reconstruction of Islam's beginnings.[10] Yet 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 north-west Arabia was the cradle of Islam.

In her book 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 Muhammad's opponents as "olive growers", might indicate that the events surrounding the Prophet took place near the Mediterranean region, and not in Mecca.[11]

Beginning as a scholar of early military and economic history of the 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".[12]



  • 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 archive.org
  • 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.[13]

Sole author



  1. ^ "Library of Congress Authorities". Library of Congress. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ Obituary, nytimes.com; accessed July 23, 2015.
  4. ^ "INSTITUTE APPOINTS NEW FACULTY MEMBERS". Archived from the original on December 8, 2004. Retrieved June 20, 2012.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".
  5. ^ "Institute for Advanced Study: 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.
  6. ^ Social Evolution & History website; accessed July 17, 2015.
  7. ^ Profile, Judith Herrin, opendemocracy.net; accessed July 17, 2015.
  8. ^ [1] Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, Vol. 40, No. 2 (December 2006), pp. 197-199
  9. ^ Patricia Crone: Hagarism, 1977; pp. 106, 120 ff., and others
  10. ^ [2] Toby Lester: What is the Koran, in: The Atlantic, issue January 1999
  11. ^ Patricia Crone: Hagarism, 1977; p. 24
  12. ^ "Patricia Crone", Institute for Advanced Study
  13. ^ Custers, Martin H. (2016). Al-Ibāḍiyya: A Bibliography, Volume 3 (Second revised and enlarged ed.). Hildesheim-London-N.Y.: Olms Publishing. p. 186.

External links

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