Blogs > Cliopatria > Montgomery Watt, 1909-2006

Oct 30, 2006 10:59 am

Montgomery Watt, 1909-2006

William Montgomery Watt, Professor (Emeritus) of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Edinburgh - unarguably one of the key historians of Islam in the West - died on October 24, 2006 at the age of 97. He was educated at the Universities of Edinburgh, Jena, and at Balliol College, Oxford. He held the post of Assistant Lecturer in Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh from 1934 to 1938, Lecturer in Ancient Philosophy 1946-1947, and successively Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Reader in Arabic 1947-1964. In 1964 he accepted the Chair from which he retired in 1979.

He was the author, most notably, of Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman, 1961, Muhammad at Mecca, 1953, and Muhammad at Medina, 1956.

Watt brought a deep sense of spirtuality to his work and, for that reason, many Muslim scholars find his approach more sympathetic to the biography of the Prophet than, say, Rodinson's. I do recommend reading this interview conducted in 2000 as it elaborates the connections between his own faith and his life's work on Islam.

Those of us who study and teach Islamic history will recognize the immense loss to our field.

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Michael R. Davidson - 10/30/2006

I count myself unlucky that two giants in the Humanities, Denys Hay and Kenneth Jackson, died shortly before I arrived in Edinburgh. I was, however, privileged, but more appropriately humbled, to have the opportunity to hear Prof. Watt speak early in my graduate career there. He will be deeply missed.

Mike Davidson