Historiography by proxy: A eurocentric view of Arabic translation history through the eyes of an orientalist

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This paper discusses the impact of Eurocentrism and ideology on translation historiography. It focuses on the Western discourse about Arabic translation history by analysing the views of De Lacy Evans O'Leary, an English historian and orientalist, in two of his works documenting the Arabic translation history during the Islamic Golden Age (8th-14th century). This era witnessed two important stages of translation into and from Arabic. The first phase was the translation of science and philosophical works from Greek to Arabic, while the second stage was the process of translating science from Arabic into Latin and Hebrew. The paper hypothesizes that O’Leary exhibits a Eurocentric view in his histories, which is manifested by his highlighting of the first translation movement and his deemphasizing of the second. The study makes use of corpus analysis to qualitatively and quantitatively analyse O'Leary’s discourse in two of his books. The quantitative analysis relied on frequency lists while the qualitative analysis made use of concordance function in Word Smith (Scott, 2010). The results revealed that O'Leary’s discourse presented a Eurocentric view. This bias was reflected in the focus of his writing on the history of the first translation movement, which included the translation of Greek science into Arabic, and his ignoring of the role played by the Arabs through the second translation movement, which preserved Greek knowledge and transmitted it via translation to the West.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-115
Number of pages11
JournalDirasat: Human and Social Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Arabic Translation History
  • Corpus Analysis
  • Eurocentrism
  • Historiography
  • Orientalism
  • Translation History

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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