Patricia Crone (1945-2015)
On the latter point, it is now customary for books on the medieval Islamic world to dedicate increasing space to the Middle East before Islam. Ira Lapidus's A History of Islamic Societies dedicates 18 pages to the topic out of about 450 on Islamic history before 1800. Jonathan Berkey's The Formation of Islam: Religion and Society in the Near East, 600-1800 has 53 of its 269 pages before Muhammad, and that title is misleading since only a brief epilogue goes past 1500. Historians studying the 7th and 8th centuries today must take account not only of Arabic sources, but of Syriac, as well.
A good overview of her influence is found in Chase Robinson's essay "Crone and the End of Orienatilism," available online here and published earlier this year in a collection of essays in Crone's honor. Building off Robinsin, I would like to highlight one point. Among Crone's works is Pre-Industrial Societies: Anatomy of the Pre-Modern World, which I have often used in world history classes, to both the profit and anguish of students. As Robinson notes, in this we can see part of her background in asking based on general patterns of history what made the Islamic world distinct. My related point is that in important ways, it and its relationship to her other work shows how she represents an advance over her predecessor as a scholarly trendsetter, Marshall Hodgson. Hodgson's magnum opus was the three-volume The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. It is this civilization model of history which Crone helped Islamic Studies to transcend. As seen most clearly in her last book, the award-winning, Nativist Prophets of Early Islamic Iran: Rural Revolt and Local Zoroastrianism, her conception of historical communities is less bounded and more comparative. What a previous generation saw as distinct civilizations are porous both spatially and temporally, and Maori preachers and evolues of the French colonial empire might be points of comparison as easily as Judaism and Christianity. This is a modern development found in many areas of history which have abandoned civilizational analysis, but in Islamic history, it is Crone's ratting the set consensus that made it both necessary and possible.