His Works and Contributions
Jurji Zaidan was a prolific writer whose objective was to inform and educate his Arab contemporaries about the modern world, as well as about their past and their national identity. He is considered to have been one of the intellectual leaders in laying the foundation for a pan-Arab secular national identity. Zaidan was the archetypical member of the Nahda at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He belonged to a new intellectual elite whose education was not based on traditional or religious learning. Zaidan was an autodidact whose only college training was one year spent in the medical department of the Syrian Protestant College in Beirut. His writings as a historian, as a linguist and as a political and social commentator and analyst bore the strong imprint of his scientific and evolutionary outlook and shaped his analytical approach in all these areas. His works gave a distinctly secular outlook to the emergence of the Arab nationalism of the times. Many other Arab writers both Muslim and Christian like himself promoted similar political and social values, but he was one of its leaders.
Zaidan was once described, quite appropriately, as “many men in one man” as he established himself as a successful historian, novelist, linguist, educator and journalist. His writings in all these areas were used, in a mutually re-enforcing way, to develop and promote a national sense of pan-Arab secular identity.