Alan Mikhail, Ed. Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa

By Seitz, Jack | Teaching History: A Journal of Methods, Fall 2013 | Go to article overview

Alan Mikhail, Ed. Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa


Seitz, Jack, Teaching History: A Journal of Methods


Alan Mikhail, ed. Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. 352. Paper, $24.95; ISBN 978-0199758660.

Water on Sand, edited by Alan Mikhail, is a diverse and engaging collection of works that bring environmental history to the forefront of the study of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in a compelling way. The essays that compose the book cover a significant swath of time--from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries--as well as a vast geographic space, and they deliver a persuasive call to utilize environmental history as a tool to understand the history of this region better. In spite of their diversity, Mikhail's introduction ties those various pieces together in a clear and meaningful way and calls readers' attention to the opportunities for the study of both MENA and environmental history if greater attention is paid to an environmental approach.

The collection would be appropriate for graduate or undergraduate readings, especially for seminars on the history of MENA, and should command serious consideration for inclusion in any course examining environmental history as a universal theme or in a comparative context. The essays are succinct, which would make them accessible even to middle or higher level undergraduates. However, their brevity is not an excuse for a lack of argument and research. The book encompasses diverse essays on the grand sweep of history as well as more localized specific studies. Representative of the former is Sam White's chapter linking the crisis of the Ottoman Empire in the seventeenth century to the Little Ice Age. …

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