Hodgson, Marshall G. S.

Alternative names
Birth 1922-04-11
Death 1968-06-10

Biographical notes:

Marshall Goodwin Simms Hodgson (1922-1968) was a professor of Islamic Studies and Chairman of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. The Marshall G.S. Hodgson Papers contain correspondence, teaching materials, research notes, and writings, primarily related to his professional life and scholarly work.

From the description of Marshall G. S. Hodgson papers, 1940-1971 (inclusive) (University of Chicago Library). WorldCat record id: 614088700

Marshall Goodwin Simms Hodgson (1922-1968) was a professor of Islamic Studies and Chairman of the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago during the 1950s and 1960s.

Hodgson's tenure at the University overlapped with the restructuring of the core "civilizations" courses for undergraduates. During the 1950s the sequence was expanded to include India, China, and Islam. This integrated approach provided an important intellectual background for Hodgson's own work; so too did his involvement with the Committee on Social Thought, which brought him into contact with important historians, anthropologists, and sociologists, notably John Ulric Nef, Mircea Eliade, Robert Redfield, and Edward Shils.

As an Islamic scholar, Hodgson rejected the Eurocentrism of most historical study. He argued that Europe's historical divergence occurred not during Renaissance, but much later, during the scientific revolutions of the seventeenth century. His efforts to locate the origins of modernity in a global context led to his interest in theories of world history. He is known primarily for his Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization (1975, 1977) and The Secret Order of Assassins: The Struggle of the Early Nizârî Ismâî'lîs Against the Islamic World (1955). The former was revised by university colleague Reuben W. Smith and published after Hodgson's death. Both books are still considered major contributions to the field. In these works Hodgson broke with the dominant historiographical narrative of Islam, focusing on piety rather than on political or dynastic history. He was concerned with the way Islamic philosophers and historians used Qur'anic teachings to approach the problems and ideals of their contemporary societies.

Hodgson was a practicing Quaker who attended the 57th Street Friends Meeting. His Quakerism informed his academic work and his political views. Hodgson was interested in the role of individual conscience and sensibility in history. He downplayed the idea that war and violence accounted for Islam's initial spread, and he supported anti-Vietnam pacifism and draft resistance. As a scholar who paid particular attention to terminology and the relationship between language and the perception of reality, he sought to distance himself from the oversimplified umbrella of "radical politics." Hodgson was also a strict vegetarian described as "ascetic."

Hodgson had three children with his wife, Phyllis, also an active member of the Hyde Park community.

From the guide to the Hodgson, Marshall G. S. Papers, 1940-1971, (Special Collections Research Center University of Chicago Library 1100 East 57th Street Chicago, Illinois 60637 U.S.A.)


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