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So much has been written about the history of the Arab World, most driven by interpretations of emotion, suffering and partisanship. Many of the books have been narratives reflecting the author’s bias or political preferences, making them either easy to read satisfying your needs or difficult to read challenging your beliefs. Eugene Rogan, the director of The Middle east Centre at St. Anthony’s College in Oxford, however, provides a clinically accurate and compelling “history” that gives the Arab World in a timely examination and explanation.
The introduction details why knowledge of the history of the Arabs is so important and it is followed by chapters that take you through the major developments and the evolution of today’s Arab. How did they get to where they are at? And, are they being marginlized and erased by the growing Islamic revolution which is burying the richness and uniqueness of the secular Arab culture in a cult of religious bastardization? These are only some questions that one might answer in understanding the history of The Arabs in Rogan’s book.
We all know the historical chronology, but Rogan takes us through a more interesting read through Ottoman rule, the Muhammad Ali empire, reformation, colonization in African, World War I, the disastrous rule of Britain in the Middle East, France in Lebanon, the disaster in Palestine, the rise of Arab nationalism, and the decline of Arab nationalism, the age of oil and the age of Islam, with a look at the consequences of the aftermath of the Cold War.
The other problem I have with past narratives of Arab history has been the writing. It’s so hard to read some of the past historical collections. They are painful to the reader and intended for the scholar. Rogan’s book mixes his firsthand experience living in the Middle East, his love for the Arab people and a writing style that encourages the non-scholar to appreciate and enjoy the rich cultural and political history of the Arabs. What the Arab World needs is less interference from the professors and scholars and more understanding among the public at large. The public needs this book more than the dusty shelves of some Middle East studies department or the classroom of affected PhD wannabes.
It’s the ease by which one can read this thick scholarly work that makes it so valuable. Knowledge is worthless if it can’t be expressed and passed along to the less knowledgeable. Rogan has taken the complexities of the Middle East and the role of its evolution under The Arabs and made it something everyday readers will enjoy. More importantly, they will take something away from this enjoyable reading experience. I’ve read almost every book on the Middle East and the Arabs over the past 35 years of American Arab activism, but Rogan’s “The Arabs” has been the most enjoyable, and that makes it the most educational.
I am not a scholar on the Middle East, just a lifelong student. Reading through Rogan’s book has been very informative and enjoyable. I highly recommend it.
More information on “The Arabs”:
by Eugene Rogan
Published by Basic Books
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.
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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