By Marwa Elshakry
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Additional resources for Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950
They brought the Muqtataf group together with Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad ‘Abduh. American and British missionaries had viewed the press as a “potent tool of civilization” and a powerful means of conversion, while Muslim scholars saw it as an effective agent of transregional Muslim reform. Shattering former conventions of reading, transcribing, and collecting texts (above all, in a society dedicated until then to chirography and the palimpsestic codex70), the print press forged novel literary and material networks, circulating ideas much further aﬁeld than just the Arab world—now linking Beirut, Cairo, Tripoli, and Istanbul with London, Paris, New York, and Buenos Aires.
In 1847 the Jesuits, in keeping with their Protestant rivals, also established a new Arabic printing press in Beirut. Between 1850 and 1880 Beirut print culture ﬂourished. During this time about twenty-four journals were published in the city, compared with a mere ﬁfteen in Cairo for the same period. By 1875 there were eleven printing presses in Beirut alone, including Al-Matbaʿa al-Suriya, founded in 1857, and Al-Matbaʿa a al-Umumiya, founded in 1861. By the late nineteenth century, they were among the largest and most up to date in the empire.
Others found that British social science, and particularly a Fabian-inspired evolutionary socialism, offered the best political solution to current problems (chapter 6). What they almost all shared was a fundamental gradualism, an acceptance of a pragmatic compromise with power. Whether collaborationist or anticolonialist, liberal or socialist, Darwin’s Arab advocates shared the conviction that evolution implied a slow change over time. In fact, the tendency was a global one: most of Darwin’s readers around the world subscribed, not to revolution, but to political reform of a very gradual sort.