The Generations of the Nations, or the Descendants of Humanity


Ṭabaqāt al-umam aw Al-salāʼil al-basharīyah (The generations of the nations, or The descendants of humanity) is an ambitious work of ethnography and anthropology, aimed at describing human societies in both their historical development and contemporary features. The book was published in 1912 by the Hilāl printing house of Cairo. Its author, Jirjī Zaydān, was born in Beirut in 1861 and studied medicine at the local American University. He later completed his literary and philosophical education in Cairo, before returning to Lebanon, where he studied Hebrew and Syriac. Zaydān worked as a journalist for the newspapers Al-Muqtaṭaf and Al-Hilāl, and his works include books on the philosophy of language and on Arabic rhetoric. In the book presented here, he offers an overview of historical and contemporary societies from all over the world. The book opens with chapters on the geological eras of the earth, the origin of man, and prehistoric societies. Zaydān devotes several chapters to the invention of writing and to the use of different systems of numeration in early civilizations. Subsequent chapters deal briefly with historical and modern societies, including ancient Egypt, the Sumerians, Akkadians, Mongols, Native Americans, Mayans, Aztecs, and modern Western societies. For each of these societies, Zaydān offers an overview of their customs, main discoveries, religious and philosophical beliefs, and literary production.

Date Created

Publication Information

Maṭbaʻat al-Hilāl, Cairo


Title in Original Language

طبقات الأمم أو السلائل البشرية


Type of Item

Physical Description

286 pages ; 24 centimeters

Last updated: January 16, 2015