Ibn Khaldun, the only Muslim historian to encompass within a single sweep the whole troubled history of Maghreb society through several centuries, formulates an hypothesis regarding the Berbers, in a famous passage in the Kitab al-ʿIbar, 1 whose powerful insight we have not always recognised. “They belong”, he tells us, “to a powerful, formidable, brave and numerous people; a true people like so many others the world has seen—like the Arabs, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans.” But the great writer immediately adds this rider, whose validity has not diminished since the fourteenth century: “Such was the Berber race. But, having fallen into decadence, and having lost their nationalistic spirit through the luxurious life that the exercise of power and the habit of domination had permitted to develop, their numbers decreased, their patriotic fervour diminished, and their corporate identity became weakened, to the point where the various peoples who made up the Berber race have now become the subject peoples of other rulers and bow like slaves under the burden of taxation.”