Book Review: The Arabs: A History (Eugene Rogan)
by Ray Hanania
I’ve read almost every book about the Middle East over my 35 years in American Arab activism. I’m a lifelong student of the Middle East and can never get enough. But until now, I have never found a book that was directed more towards the public than to the scholars and professors who dominate the Middle East with their insider partisanship. Most books about the Middle East pretend to be objective but are really advocacy for a cause or partisan viewpoint. But Rogan’s book is made for the average Joe and Alice in America. Just enough detaiuled history mixed in with compelling stories and sans the complex and useless phraseology of the professors and hardcore scholars who make the Middle East so difficult to understand.
“The Arabs” is an easy book to read and that is its number one achievement. One of the problems with most other professors and scholars is that they speak to each other and rarely understand or have the talents to speak to the average member of the public, the very audience that needs to bone up fast on Middle East history without all the partisan crap.
Rogan’s writing is breezy. Easy to read. And when something is easy to read, you will find it is read more frequently and understood by the people who need to understand it. On top of this, Rogan has added his depth of knowledge about the Middle East, where he has lived, and his love for the Arab people. His narrative is more a story of fact rather than a narrative of argument.
I’m still reading through it but I haven’t put it down since it arrived this week. And I just might read it again, twice, because it is so informative and brilliantly compiled in such a simplistic writing style that is so badly needed in the Arab and Middle East discourse.
Here is some more information ont he book and the author, Eugene Rogan:
The Arabs: A History
by Eugene Rogan
Nov 2, 2009
Published by Basic Books
To American observers, the Arab world often seems little more than a distant battleground characterized by religious zealotry and political chaos. Years of tone-deaf US policies have left the region powerless to control its own destiny—playing into a longstanding sense of shame and impotence for a once-mighty people. In this definitive account, preeminent historian Eugene Rogan traces five centuries of Arab history, from the Ottoman conquests through the British and French colonial periods and up to the present age of unipolar American hegemony. The Arab world is now more acutely aware than ever of its own vulnerability, and this sense of subjection carries with it vast geopolitical consequences. Drawing from Arab sources little known to Western readers, Rogan’sThe Arabs will transform our understanding of the past, present, and future of one of the world’s most tumultuous regions.
About the author
Eugene Rogan is a faculty fellow and university lecturer in the Modern History of the Middle East at St Antony’s College, Oxford, where he serves as director of the Middle East Centre. His previous book, Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire, was judged by the Middle East Studies Association of North America to be the best work on the Middle East in 2000 and awarded the Albert Hourani Prize. He lives in Oxford, England.