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A Middle East Mosaic: Fragments of Life, Letters, and Historyby Bernard Lewis
Synopses & Reviews
Since he published his first book in 1950, the now classic Arabs in History, Lewis's stature in his field has grown steadily. Today, he is recognized as the most important scholar of the region in the second half of the twentieth century. In many of his works, Lewis has explored the complicated web of fascination, affection, envy, romanticism, misapprehension, and mistrust that for the past millennium have defined the relationship between the Muslim cultures of the Middle East and the Western descendents of Christendom. In A Middle East Mosaic he takes a unique approach to this theme. Drawing on his encyclopedic knowledge of historical source materials, Lewis has gathered together this excellent collection of writings from each side of the Bosporus: from Shakespeare to T. E. Lawrence, and from Ibn Khaldun to Osama bin Laden. Together, they reveal ? like no book before ? the thorny love affair between these two great cultures. Farley, Powells.com
In times of war and in peace, from the earliest days of the Roman Empire to our own, Westerners have journeyed to the lands of the middle east, bringing back accounts of their adventures and impressions. Yet it was never a one way exchange. From the first Arab embassy to the Vikings in the 9th century to the internet musings of the Taliban, A Middle East Mosaic collects a rich, boisterous literature of cultural exchange.
We see the American Revolution through the eyes of a Moroccan Ambassador and the French Revolution through a series of Imperial Ottoman proclamations. We find surprising portraits of Napoleon ("a brigand chief"), TE Lawrence and Ataturk. We learn what George Washington and Machiavelli through t of Turkish politics and hear Flaubert and Thackeray rail against eastern crime and punishment. We peer into Voltaire's business correspondence and follow the footsteps of Mark Twain, Richard Burton, Gertrude Bell and Ibn Battutta, the Marco Polo of the east. Great discoveries are recorded - an Egyptian Ambassador is introduced to electricity and dismisses the spectacle as "frankish trickery;" another pronounces the invention of a secure mail system most useful for assignations. We enter the harem with a 16th century organ maker and emerge with Ottoman reform.
It was not until the sixteenth century that the first middle eastern rulers entered into diplomatic relations with European rulers, but trade often precede diplomatic relations. Business men from the days of the crusades against Saladin to the oil prospecting of Samuel Cox and his descendents have seen great possibilities in the markets of the middle east. And throughout the centuries we have been united by war. We witness the outbreak of the Crimean war with Karl Marx and enter Egypt with Napoleon. We observe Arab customs with George Patton and visit Baghdad and Cairo with George F. Kennan in the second world war. When Usama bin Ladin rails against "Jews and crusaders" occupying the holy land, he is rehearsing a grievance with a long history.
This symphony of voices, full of wit and wisdom, spite and wonder, suspicion, befuddlement and occasional insight, is ordered and explained by our foremost living historian of the middle east. The fruit of a lifetime of scholarship and erudition, A Middle East Mosaic is a dazzling capstone to a brilliant career. In a spirited reappraisal of western views of the east and eastern views of the west over the last two thousand years, Bernard Lewis gives us a brilliant over-view of 2,000 years of commerce, diplomacy, war and exploration.
This book is a delight, a treasury of stories drawn from letters, diaries and histories, but also from unpublished archives and previously untranslated accounts. Diplomats and interpreters, slaves, soldiers, pilgrims and missionaries, princes and spies, businessmen, doctors and priests all pour forth their stories of the people and events that shaped history. A Middle East Mosaic cannot fail to appeal to anyone with an appetite for history and a curiosity about the vagaries of cultural exchange.
"What a treasure of accounts and documents Bernard Lewis has found for us! This is the kind of book I wish I had had when writing my own chapter on Islam in Wealth and Poverty of Nations. Bernard Lewis is living testimony to the ability of an outsider to know and enter into another culture and illuminate it for the larger public. His opus is remarkable, and his productivity increases with age. A model to the rest of us, what will he give us next?" David Landes, author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations
"Comparison is the beginning of all serious scholarship, and Bernard Lewis is the greatest scholar of the Middle East in the second half of the 20th century because his knowledge of other regions too — Europe, China, India — gives him a rich basis for comparison with the Arab, Turkish, Persian, and Jewish worlds. No other Middle East expert could have compiled this Collection. Only an authentic renaissance man." Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Arabists
Includes bibliographical reference (p. -451) and index.
About the Author
Bernard Lewis is the author of The Middle East: A Brief History of the last 2,000 Years, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Muslim Discovery of Europe, and The Arabs in History, among other seminal books in a long and distinguished career. Internationally recognized as one of our century's greatest historians of the middle east, his books have been translated into over twenty languages. A Fellow of the British Academy, a member of the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Institut de France, he is Cleveland E. Dodge Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University and was a long-term member of the Institute for Advanced Study.
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