It is not easy to sum up, and considerably harder to assess, the life’s work of a scholar as influential and prolific as Albert Hourani. It is harder still to do with any precision when he was a man whose influence was exercised as much through his teaching, his lectures and his erudite conversation and commentary as it was through the broad range of his scholarly writings on the modern Middle East.
That Hourani was prolific is evidenced by the eight books he wrote, seven works he edited, the 157 articles and shorter pieces and over 100 book reviews he produced over a scholarly career spanning nearly five decades. Among them were writings of great importance to the field. These included the seminal Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age 1789–1939, which has gone through two editions and numerous reprints, and may be one of the most widely read works in modern Middle Eastern history. Among his articles, “Ottoman Reform and the Politics of the Notables,” originally published in the volume Beginnings of Modernization in the Middle East: The Nineteenth Century in 1968 and reissued in 1981, has provided a concept—that of “the politics of the notables”—which has helped a generation of historians to better understand the society and politics of the modern Middle East.