Synopses & Reviews
From Algeria and Libya to Egypt and Syria, the Arab world commands Western headlines, even as its complex politics and cultures elude the grasp of most Western readers and commentators. Perhaps no other region is so closely linked to contemporary U.S. foreign policy, and nowhere else does the unfolding of events have such significant consequences for America.
A Concise History of the Arabs argues that the key to understanding the Arab world todayand#151;and in the years aheadand#151;is unlocking its past. John McHugo takes the reader on a journey through the political, social, and intellectual history of the Arabs from the Roman Empire right up to the present day. His sweeping and fluent account describes in vivid detail the mission of the Prophet Muhammad, the expansion of Islam, the origins of Shiism, medieval and modern conflicts, the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the interaction with Western ideas, the struggle to escape foreign domination, the rise of Islamism, and the end of the era of dictators.
McHugo reveals how the Arab world came to have its present form, why change was inevitable, and what choices lie ahead following the Arab Spring. This deeply informed and accessible account is the perfect entry point for anyone seeking to comprehend this vital part of the world.
"Squeezing the history of a people into one volume is an ambitious undertaking with the end result bound to leave out more than it includes, the details needed to understand a time and place elided. McHugo, an international lawyer and Arabist, proves as much with this unfocused volume. It's very much history of the old school, a linear narrative detailing a 'concatenation of historical events,' which, while cogent and serviceable, fails to capture the essence of societal transformation and intellectual ferment. McHugo promises that 'this is not a history of Islam' but begins with the birth of Muhammad, ignoring the much-older origins of Arab identity. The Maghreb and al-Andalus are mostly absent, as is the Arabian Peninsula itself a thumbnail sketch of Saudi Arabia appears only as an awkward appendage to a chapter ostensibly about Egypt and the two political entities discussed at greatest length are Israel and the Ottoman Empire. The last chapter, covering the recent uprisings and modern theories regarding the role of religion in governance, is more successful, but little sets it apart from better, more in-depth analyses of the same topics elsewhere. Maps. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
John McHugo is an Arabist, an international lawyer, and a former academic researcher. He is a director of the Council for Arab–British Understanding, the chair of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine, and a director of the British–Egyptian Society. He lives in London.