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Franz Rosenthal

john rosenthal, franz rosenthal
Franz Rosenthal August 31, 1914 – April 8, 2003 was the Louis M Rabinowitz professor of Semitic languages at Yale from 1956 to 1967 and Sterling Professor Emeritus of Arabic, scholar of Arabic literature and Islam at Yale from 1967 to 1985


  • 1 Background
  • 2 Selected works
  • 3 Awards and honors
  • 4 References
  • 5 External links


Rosenthal was born in Berlin, Germany into a Jewish family, on August 31, 1914, and was the second son of Kurt W Rosenthal, a flour merchant, and Elsa Rosenthal née Kirschstein1 He entered the University of Berlin in 1932, where he studied classics and oriental languages and civilizations His teachers were Carl Becker 1876–1933, Richard Walzer 1900–75, and Hans Heinrich Schaeder 1896–1957 He received his PhD in 1935 with a dissertation, supervised by Schaeder, on Palmyrenian inscriptions Die Sprache der Palmyränischen Inschriften

After teaching for a year in Florence, Italy, he became instructor at the Lehranstalt formerly Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, a rabbinical seminary in Berlin In 1938, he completed his history of Aramaic studies, which was awarded the Lidzbarski Medal and Prize from the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft The prize money was withheld from him because he was Jewish, yet on Schaeder's initiative, he was given a prize medal in gold to compensate him for the loss

Shortly after the infamous Kristallnacht, Rosenthal left Germany in December 1938 and went to Sweden, where he was invited through the offices of the Swedish historian of religions HS Nyberg 1889–1974 From there he went to England, where he arrived in April 1939, and eventually came to the United States in 1940, having received an invitation to join the faculty of the Hebrew Union College HUC in Cincinnati, Ohio He became a US citizen in 1943 and during the war worked on translations from Arabic for the Office of Strategic Services in Washington, DC Following the war, he returned to academia, first at HUC and then in 1948 moved to the University of Pennsylvania In 1956, he was appointed the Louis M Rabinowitz Professor of Semitic Languages at Yale He became a Sterling Professor in 1967 and emeritus in 1985

Professor Rosenthal was a prolific and highly accomplished scholar who contributed much to the development of source-critical studies in Arabic in the US His publications range from a monograph on Humor in Early Islam to a three-volume annotated translation of the Muqaddimah of Ibn Khaldun to a Grammar of Biblical Aramaic For his translation of the Muqaddimah, he traveled to Istanbul and studied the manuscript there, among them Ibn Khaldun's autograph copy His 1952 History of Muslim Historiography was the first study of this enormous subject He wrote extensively on Islamic civilization, including The Muslim Concept of Freedom, The Classical Heritage in Islam, The Herb: Hashish versus Medieval Muslim Society, Gambling in Islam, On Suicide in Islam and Sweeter Than Hope: Complaint and Hope in Medieval Islam, Knowledge Triumphant: The Concept of Knowledge in Medieval Islam Leiden: EJ Brill, 1970, as well as three volumes of collected essays and two volumes of translations from the Arabic text of the history of the medieval Persian historian al-Tabari, Tarikh al-Rusul wa al-Muluk History of the Prophets and Kings Rosenthal continued to publish in German and in English His books have been translated into Arabic, Russian, and Turkish

Selected worksedit

  • "Humor in Early Islam" 1956
  • The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History 3v1958 - The first complete translation in English of "Muqaddimah" by 14th century Islamic scholar and statesman, Ibn Khaldun
  • The Muslim Concept of Freedom Prior to the Nineteenth Century 1960
  • A Grammar of Biblical Aramaic 1961
  • An Aramaic handbook 1967
  • Knowledge Triumphant: The Concept of Knowledge in Medieval Islam 1970 reprinted 2007 with a Preface by Dimitri Gutas
  • "Sweeter Than Hope": Complaint and Hope in Medieval Islam 1983
  • General Introduction, And, From the Creation to the Flood, translation of the History of Tabari 1985
  • The Classical Heritage in Islam 1994
  • Man versus Society in Medieval Islam Brill, Leiden & Boston 2015 ISBN 978-90-04-27088-6 print; ISBN 978-90-04-27089-3 eBook brings together all the monographs and articles by Franz Rosenthal in which he investigates the tensions and conflicts that existed between individuals and society as the focus of his study of Muslim social history

Awards and honorsedit

President of the American Oriental Society


  1. ^ In Memoriam: Franz Rosenthal, 87
  • This text is based on the necrologue in the Yale Bulletin & Calendar
  • Neue Deutsche Biographie, vol 22, edited by Historische Kommission der Bayrischen Akademie der Wissenschaften Berlin: Dunker & Humblot, 2005, 82–83

External linksedit

  • 1 "Sweeter Than Hope" By Franz Rosenthal
  • 2 In Memoriam: Franz Rosenthal
  • 3 Franz Rosenthal, 88, Interpreter and Scholar

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