The Near East: A Modern History

The Near East: A Modern History

The Near East: A Modern History

The Near East: A Modern History

Excerpt

The history of the Near East is that of a geographical area and its varied peoples, not that of any single nation. In modern times, down to 1918, the story centers around the Ottoman Empire; then, after World War I, it deals principally with the evolution of new nations--Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt.

Although this strategically situated region was subjected to invasion and conquest by many peoples from both Asia and Europe, the rich indigenous cultures of the Near East throughout most of its history had a strongly civilizing effect upon the surrounding barbarians and on alien invaders and conquerors. It is only in recent times that the impact of foreign nations and cultures has become of greater significance to the Near East than that of Near Eastern culture upon the West. This reversal of the role formerly played by the Near East is one of the most notable features of its recent and contemporary history.

EAST IS EAST AND WEST IS WEST?

At the dawn of recorded history, many of the fundamental patterns of western civilization had been developed in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Palestine. Here most of the basic social institutions of the West, as well as the ethical and philosophical concepts of its peoples, found their beginnings. But although East and West possess this common heritage, so many divergences have grown up between them in their respective ways of life and thought that Westerners, upon their first contact with the peoples of the Near East, find them strange and incomprehensible. The instinctive Occidental response was stated most effectively by Rudyard Kipling: "East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet." Happily, the absurdity of this idea has been demonstrated by the successful bridging of the gap by many notable Europeans and by the countless thousands of inconspicuous Oriental immigrants to both . . .

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