Eight European scholars investigate Oriental studies through the prism of academic personalities. They examine how these ideas were altered in light of new research methods, cross-cultural experiences, and political changes. The book's goal is to clarify the diversity of Orientalists and their many roles as missionaries, scholars, and public intellectuals.
Paul surveys these figures in an era when the field was fraught with disagreements over academic reputation, popularizing work, and political engagement. Holger Gzella examines the paradigm of the Prussian professor trying to "fit in" as a scholar. Arie L. Molendijk illuminates the multiple facets of German-born British scholar Friedrich Max Müller. Henning Trüper analyzes German scholar Julius Euting's trip to "Inner Arabia" using notes from that trip. Pascale Rabault-Feuerhahn discusses German studies of India considering philology, fieldwork, and indigenous traditions. Timothy H. Barrett explores British diplomat and Chinese linguist Herbert Giles while Hans Martin Krämer investigates Orientalism and the European models of scholarship about Japan.
Perhaps the most instructive essay is Engberts' about Orientalists at the start of World War I. Dutch Arabist Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje was revered by his German colleague Carl Heinrich Becker, but their friendship was damaged as the war began, after the Ottoman sultan decreed what Hurgronje denounced as a "Holy War Made in Germany." Hurgronje was against European incitement of jihad while German colleagues supported the kaiser's jihad instigation. This dispute exposed the tension between scholarship and advocacy. Engberts shows how scholars of the time shed their enlightenment values, and instead put knowledge to the use of nationalist and colonial fights, and raised patriotic feelings over impartial cosmopolitism.
The book's fine and useful essays introduce readers to the deep commonalities between the issues of Orientalist scholarship circa 1900 and today.