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Population change can be interpreted as the result of the continuous confrontation and adaptation between the forces of constraint and the forces of choice. Forces of choice are the ability to modulate and control behaviors that have demographic consequences, such as entering into a reproductive union; having children; protecting and enhancing health with adequate nutrition, housing, and clothing; moving and migrating from one place to another. Modern demography has been characterized by an acceleration with a variety of geographical patterns, and this variety increases the smaller the scale of analysis. This chapter outlines the nature of the demographic systems prevailing in different parts of the world in the eighteenth century. It presents the factors that determine a change or a transformation of a demographic system, therefore affecting population development. To define demographic transition as the process that has reduced mortality and fertility from the high pre-nineteenth-century levels to the low ones that prevail nowadays in Europe, America, and East Asia.
An Egyptian student and his friends believed that a wave of atheism and debauchery flooded their country following the First World War. In their view, materialism, imperial occupation and weakness of religious leaders caused a crisis for Muslims. When this young man, Ḥasan al-Bannā (1906–49), received an assignment to teach in Ismailia, in the Suez Canal zone, he went with a determination to awaken people to ‘the enormous dangers confronting the very essence of their religion because of the advance of licentiousness and apostasy’. Preaching in coffee houses and in private homes, he gained a significant following. Then, in 1928, he joined others in establishing the Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwān al-Muslimīn). This organisation quickly became a well-known association dedicated to Islamic reform and its creation is a milestone in the emergence of new styles of Muslim organisations. The Muslim Brotherhood is in many ways the prototype of modern activist Islamic organisations.
The Brotherhood was not alone in the Muslim world during the fifty years after the First World War as an organisation dedicated to religious renewal. From South-East Asia to North-West Africa, people like al-Bannā worked to counter what they believed to be Muslims’ weakness in the face of Western military power and the challenges of modernity. The movements took many forms but these individuals and groups are not simply a stubborn conservative resistance to encroaching modernity. Instead, they are a dynamic part of the modern experiences of the Muslim world.
“Area studies” as a way of trying to understand human experience is undergoing a major transition. Questioning the connection between Middle East and African studies highlights important dimensions of the changing nature of area studies at the beginning of the 21st century.
Al-Sa⊂di's Ta⊃rikh al-sudan is an essential source for the history of West Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries and a significant volume in the library of Muslim history. Although a French translation by Octave Houdas has been available for more than a century, al-Sa⊂di's history has been used primarily by specialists and is known more generally only through references to it in textbooks and monographs. The publication of John Hunwick's translation makes this important work readily available to a broad audience in a readable and very usable form.
The sounds and activities of an increasingly globalized human world often drown out the noises of the debates in scholarly journals and intellectual magazines about the coming wars among civilizations. This globalized theater of life is paradoxical, conflictridden and often destructive of many human values, but it is fundamentally an increasingly one-world context. Its struggles and conflicts cannot be best understood by viewing them as if they were wars between essentially different and separated entities.