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For Lust of Knowing: The Orientalists and their Enemies, published in the United Statesmarker under the title Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and Its Discontents, is a 2006 non-fiction book by Britishmarker historian Robert Graham Irwin. The book is both a history of the academic discipline of Orientalism and an attack on Edward Said's 1978 book Orientalism. The title of the British version of the book comes from the poem "The Golden Journey to Samarkand" by James Elroy Flecker.

Table of Contents

  1. The Clash of Ancient Civilizations
  2. An Ancient Heresy or a New Paganism
  3. Renaissance Orientalism
  4. The Holiness of Oriental Studies
  5. Enlightenment of a Sort
  6. Oriental Studies in the Age of Steam and Cant
  7. A House Divided Against Itself
  8. The All Too Brief Heydey of Orientalism
  9. An Enquiry into the Nature of a Certain Twentieth-Century Polemic
  10. Enemies of Orientalism


British ambassador Oliver Miles, reviewing in The Guardian, praised the work for being "readable, learned, enthusiastic". As for the attacks on Orientalism, Miles states that while "Irwin scores some hits...[he] cannot quite pin Said down."

The Independent focused on its polemical nature, describing the work as a "petrol-bomb lobbed into the flames of dissent...a self-confessedly partisan document." The reviewer concluded that by the end of all of Irwin's arguments "the reader is left in no doubt that the original premise of Orientalism is highly flawed"; however, he notes that much of "orientalising tendencies" come not from the scholars upon whom Irwin focused, but the multitude of other opinion-makers like journalists and diplomats.

The New York Times complimented Irwin on the "lively, readable style", but noted that it could be difficult to follow for readers unfamiliar with the field. While calling the attack on Said "bracing", Irwin "makes abundantly clear...that "Orientalism" cannot really be refuted" because it is a political argument.

Amir Taheri, writing in Asharq Al-Awsat, listed a number of factual and editing errors that Irwin makes in the book, also noting a number of prominent Orientalists left unmentioned. Nevertheless, he found the book enjoyable to read, stating that to his knowledge, it represents "the most complete account of Orientalism from the emergence of its modern version in the 19th century to the present day." He also questioned the need to respond to Said's work with such research, as Said was "more of a political militant than a scholar".


United Kingdom

  • (Hardcover)
  • (Paperback)

United States

  • (Hardcover)
  • (Paperback)


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