North Africa: A History from Antiquity to the Present

North Africa: A History from Antiquity to the Present

North Africa: A History from Antiquity to the Present

North Africa: A History from Antiquity to the Present


North Africa has been a vital crossroads throughout history, serving as a connection between Africa, Asia, and Europe. Paradoxically, however, the region's historical significance has been chronically underestimated. In a book that may lead scholars to reimagine the concept of Western civilization, incorporating the role North African peoples played in shaping "the West," Phillip Naylor describes a locale whose transcultural heritage serves as a crucial hinge, politically, economically, and socially.

Ideal for novices and specialists alike,North Africabegins with an acknowledgment that defining this area has presented challenges throughout history. Naylor's survey encompasses the Paleolithic period and early Egyptian cultures, leading readers through the pharonic dynasties, the conflicts with Rome and Carthage, the rise of Islam, the growth of the Ottoman Empire, European incursions, and the postcolonial prospects for Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Western Sahara.

Emphasizing the importance of encounters and interactions among civilizations, North Africa maps a prominent future for scholarship about this pivotal region.


North Africa is understudied, and this must change. In his presidential address on 18 November 2007 at the Middle East Studies Association meeting in Montréal, Canada, Professor Zachary Lockman emphasized the need to devote greater attention to North Africa. Having researched in Algeria and having directed the Western civilization program at Marquette University, I became acutely aware of North Africa’s historical significance. Nevertheless, its formative influence on the development of European, Mediterranean, and African civilizations is usually understated or neglected in textbooks. North Africa’s contributory significance needs to be asserted or at the least considered.

I wrote this book since no introductory survey of North Africa meets my pedagogical needs. For example, Jamil M. Abun-Nasr’s A History of the Maghrib (1971) and A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period (1987) are outstanding, but challenging books for most beginning students. In addition, in spite of Egypt’s cultural and historical difference, if not autonomy, I chose to include it along with the Maghrib for reasons mentioned in the Introduction. My book is an interpretive narrative and meant to be a concise rather than a comprehensive historical survey of North Africa for students and general readers—a sahib or companion rather than a formal textbook. I hope it will also be useful to scholars, especially those in the field whose indispensable collective work and engagement I have benefited from and admired for decades.

Although I wrote most of this book primarily at home and at Marquette, I wish to acknowledge my cousin, Professor Constance Cryer Ecklund, who provided hospitality and space at her home in Connecticut resulting in several drafted chapters. I reviewed and revised pages at Professor Alex D. Naylor’s home in Illinois between fraternal discussions on foreign policy (the need to understand history and culture) and the White Sox (the status of the pitching staff). Colleagues accorded exceptional time and support at Marquette’s . . .

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