Patricia Crone

Patricia Crone
Born (1945-03-28)March 28, 1945
Kyndeløse Sydmark, Rye Parish, Lejre Municipality, Denmark
Died July 11, 2015(2015-07-11) (aged 70)
Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.
Academic work
Main interests Islamic Studies; Quranic (Islamic) studies; scriptural exegesis; scholarship on Islamic origins
Notable works Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (with M.A. Cook); Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam

Patricia Crone (March 28, 1945  July 11, 2015) was a Danish-American author, scholar, orientalist, and historian, specializing in early Islamic history.[1]

Crone's lasting contribution to the field of Islamic Studies is the fundamental questioning of the historicity of the Islamic traditions about the beginnings of Islam, by which she significantly contributed as a major representative of the "Revisionist School" to a paradigm shift in Islamic Studies among the Western Orientalists.

Life and career

Crone was born in Kyndeløse, Roskilde, Denmark, on March 28, 1945.[2] After taking the forprøve, or preliminary exam, at Copenhagen University, she went to Paris to learn French, and then to London where she determined to get into a university to become fluent in English. In 1974 she earned her PhD at the University of London, where she was a Senior Research Fellow at the Warburg Institute until 1977. She was accepted as an occasional student at King's College London and followed a course in medieval European history, especially church-state relations. In 1977, Crone became a University Lecturer in Islamic history and a Fellow of Jesus College at Oxford University. Crone became Assistant University Lecturer in Islamic studies and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College at Cambridge University in 1990 and held several positions at Cambridge.[3] She served as University Lecturer in Islamic studies from 1992 to 1994, and as Reader in Islamic history from 1994-97. In 1997, she was appointed to the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where she was named as Andrew W. Mellon Professor.[4] From 2002 until her death in 2015, she was a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Social Evolution & History.[5]

She died on July 11, 2015, aged 70, from cancer.[6]


The major theme of Crone's scholarly life was the fundamental questioning of the historicity of Islamic sources about the beginnings of Islam. Crone's two most known works concentrate on this topic: Hagarism and Meccan Trade. Three decades after Hagarism, Fred Donner called Patricia Crone's work a "milestone" in the field of Orientalist study of Islam.[7]

In their book Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World (1977), Crone and her associate Michael Cook, working at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London at the time, provided a new analysis of early Islamic history. They fundamentally questioned the historicity of the Islamic traditions about the beginnings of Islam. They tried to produce the picture of Islam's beginnings only from non-Arabic sources. By studying the only surviving contemporary accounts of the rise of Islam, which were written in Armenian, Greek, Aramaic and Syriac by witnesses, they reconstructed a significantly different story of Islam's beginnings, compared with the story known from the Islamic traditions. Crone and Cook claimed to be able to explain exactly how Islam came into being by the fusion of various near eastern civilizations under Arabic leadership.[8] Later, Patricia Crone refrained from this attempt of a detailed reconstruction of Islam's beginnings.[9] Yet she continued to maintain the basic results of her work:

In her book Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (1987), Crone argued that the importance of the pre-Islamic Meccan trade has been grossly exaggerated. Furthermore, she found that Mecca was never part of any of the major ancient trade route. She also suggested that while Muhammad never traveled much beyond the Hijaz, internal evidence in the Qur'an, such as its description of Muhammad's opponents as "olive growers", might indicate that the events surrounding the Prophet took place near the Mediterranean region, and not in Mecca.[10]

Beginning as a scholar of early military and economic history of the Middle East, Crone's later career focused mainly on "the Qur’an and the cultural and religious traditions of Iraq, Iran, and the formerly Iranian part of Central Asia".[11]


Sole author




  1. "Library of Congress Authorities". Library of Congress. Retrieved January 24, 2007.
  2. Obituary,; accessed July 23, 2015.
  3. "INSTITUTE APPOINTS NEW FACULTY MEMBERS". Archived from the original on December 8, 2004. Retrieved June 20, 2012.; "Dr. Crone, who is presently at Cambridge University, will be in residence at the Institute as of the beginning of the fall term in September 1997".
  4. "Institute for Advanced Study: Faculty and Emeriti". Institute for Advanced Study. Archived from the original on March 4, 2007. Retrieved January 24, 2007. Crone's work has challenged long-held explanations and provided new approaches for the social, economic, legal and religious patterns that transformed Late Antiquity.
  5. Social Evolution & History website; accessed July 17, 2015.
  6. Profile,; accessed July 17, 2015.
  7. Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, Vol. 40, No. 2 (December 2006), pp. 197-199
  8. Patricia Crone: Hagarism, 1977; pp. 106, 120 ff., and others
  9. Toby Lester: What is the Koran, in: The Atlantic, issue January 1999
  10. Patricia Crone: Hagarism, 1977; p. 24
  11. "Patricia Crone", Institute for Advanced Study
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