Though known to specialists, Comte de Gobineau’s vital if idiosyncratic contribution to Orientalism has only been accessible to the English reader through secondary sources. Especially important for its portrayal of an esoteric Sufi sect like the Ahl-i Haqq, and its vivid narrative of the Babi episode in Persia, Gobineau’s work impacted significantly on European intelligentsia, including Ernest Renan, Matthew Arnold, Lord Curzon, and the Orientalist Edward Granville Browne.
Daniel O’Donoghue’s brilliant translation now makes available sizeable extracts from Gobineau’s two most important writings on the East: Three Years in Asia and Religions and Philosophies of Central Asia. Geoffrey Nash’s comprehensive introduction and notes contextualise Gobineau’s work in the light of contemporary scholarship, as well as assessing its impact on nineteenth century Orientalists and modern Iranians, and its relevance to debates around Islam and modernity that are still alive today.
Introductory Essay Part 1: Three Years in Asia 1. The Nation 2. Religion 3. The Sufis 4. The Condition of Individuals 5. Characters, Social Relations 6. Probable Results of Relations Between Europe and Asia Part 2: Religions and Philosophies of Central Asia 1. Religious and Moral Character of Asiatics 2. Faith of the Arabs, Origin and Development of Shi‘ism 3. Beginnings of Babism 4. Development of Babism 5. Battles and Successes of The Babis in Mazandaran 6. Fall of the Castle of Shaykh Tabarsi, Trouble in Zanjan 7. Insurrection in Zanjan, Captivity and Death of the Bab 8. Attempt on the King’s Life Bibliography