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Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City'The Historian and his Reputation, 1776-1815$
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David Womersley

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780198187332

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187332.001.0001

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‘Enthusiasm and Imposture’: Gibbon and Mahomet

‘Enthusiasm and Imposture’: Gibbon and Mahomet

Chapter:
(p.147) 4 ‘Enthusiasm and Imposture’: Gibbon and Mahomet
Source:
Gibbon and the 'Watchmen of the Holy City'
Author(s):

DAVID WOMERSLEY

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198187332.003.0004

The third instalment of The Decline and Fall (1788) required Gibbon to narrate the rise, growth, and decline of Islam, a subject in which he had been interested since his early youth, and which had also, since the late seventeenth century, been a battleground between the forces of religious orthodoxy and heterodoxy in both England and Europe. This chapter contextualises Gibbon's account in that complex tradition, and shows how he picks his way between the simplified versions both of his critics and of those freethinkers with whom his critics attempted to confuse him. Gibbon's attainment of the desired character of a consummate historian was to some degree facilitated by his clerical opponents.

Keywords:   Decline and Fall, freethinkers, Islam

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