A History of the Modern Middle East, 4th ed. By William L. Cleveland and Martin Bunton (Boulder: Westview Press, 2009. 618 pages.)

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Amr G. E. Sabet

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Abstract

This extensive and lucid book provides a laudable introduction to the political
history of the Middle East, tracing its development from Islam’s rise in
the seventh century to the recent direct American military involvement in
Iraq and Afghanistan. While the opening chapters start with Islam’s “rise and
expansion,” however, the book’s main chronological focus centers on the
late eighteenth century onward. This only adds to its current status. The geographical
area covered is from Egypt to Iran, and from Turkey to the Arabian
Peninsula. Some omission, however, was necessary (e.g., western North
Africa, Sudan, and Afghanistan) in order to keep the book manageable (p.
xiii). While extensiveness and generality frequently lead to unavoidable simplification
and superficiality, this book nevertheless contains an insightful
analysis of the continuum of events and transformations that have helped
shape the region’s history and geography. The authors are to be praised for
their grasp and clear conceptualization of core issues, as well as for their
effort to maintain a good measure of narrative neutrality and thus eschewing
the usual prejudices and biases ...

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