The Modern Middle East: A Political History since the First World War

The Modern Middle East: A Political History since the First World War

The Modern Middle East: A Political History since the First World War

The Modern Middle East: A Political History since the First World War

Synopsis

From the fall of the Ottoman Empire through the Arab Spring, this completely revised and updated edition of Mehran Kamrava's classic treatise on the making of the contemporary Middle East remains essential reading for students and general readers who want to gain a better understanding of this diverse region.

Excerpt

This book examines the political history of the contemporary Middle East. Although it focuses primarily on the period since the demise of the Ottoman Empire, shortly after World War I, it includes some discussion of pre-Ottoman and Ottoman histories to better clarify the background and the context in which modern Middle Eastern political history has taken shape. The book uses a broad conception of the “Middle East” as a geographic area that extends from Iran in the east to Turkey, Iraq, the Arabian peninsula, the Levant (Lebanon and Syria), and North Africa, including the Maghreb, in the west. Maghreb is the Arabic word for “Occident” and has historically been used to describe areas west of Egypt. In modern times, it has come to refer to Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Libya is also sometimes included as part of the Maghreb, but it is more commonly grouped with Egypt as belonging to North Africa.

Although there are vast differences between and within the histories, cultures, traditions, and politics of each of these regions in the Middle East, equally important and compelling shared characteristics unify the region. By far the most important of these are language, ethnicity, and religion. Much of Middle Eastern identity is wrapped around the Arabic language. Poetry and storytelling have historically been viewed as elevated art forms. As Fouad Ajami has observed, “Poetry, it has been said, was (and is) to the Arabs what philosophy was to the Greeks, law to the Romans, and art to the Persians: the repository and purest expression of their distinctive spirit.” Even in places where it is not the national language and is not widely spoken, as in Iran and in Turkey, Arabic, the language of the Quran, permeates life with its many expressions and phrases.

Another common bond in the Middle East is Arab ethnic identity. From Iraq in the north down to the Arabian peninsula and west all the way to . . .

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