Synopses & Reviews
For centuries, the world of Islam was in the forefront of human achievement -- the foremost military and economic power in the world, the leader in the arts and sciences of civilization. Christian Europe was seen as an outer darkness of barbarism and unbelief from which there was nothing to learn or to fear. And then everything changed. The West won victory after victory, first on the battlefield and then in the marketplace.
In this elegantly written volume, Bernard Lewis, a renowned authority an Islamic affairs, examines the anguished reaction of the Islamic world as it tried to make sense of how it had been overtaken, overshadowed, and dominated by the West. In a fascinating portrait of a culture in turmoil, Lewis shows how the Middle East turned its attention to understanding European weaponry, industry, government, education, and culture. He also describes how some Middle Easterners fastened blame on a series of scapegoats, while others asked not "Who did this to us?" but rather "Where did we go wrong?"
With a new Afterword that addresses September 11 and its aftermath, What Went Wrong? is an urgent, accessible book that no one who is concerned with contemporary affairs will want to miss.
"What Went Wrong?
might almost have been subtitled, 'And when will they stop beating their wives?' It assumes that something did go wrong in the Middle East, not in the months or years leading up to Sept. 11, 2001, but starting in the late Middle Ages. Progress in science and technology, including military technology, seems to have simply halted. This, combined with a notable lack of curiosity about what was going on in the 'infidel' lands to the West, kept Islamic civilization on the sidelines throughout most of the past millennium....those of us interested in better understanding this troubled region have been given an introduction to some important issues and a lot of food for thought." Ruth Walker, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire CSM review
"In the fields of Islamic and Middle Eastern history, few people are as prominent and prolific as Lewis....This time around, however, he has written a book with an inconsistent argument and an erratic narrative consisting of recycled themes from his earlier books, a work that sheds no new light on Middle Eastern history or on the events of September 11." Publishers Weekly
"[H]ighly readable....Like many of Lewis's previous writings on this subject, this book will undoubtedly generate significant debate and disagreement among scholars regarding the author's analysis of Islamic responses to modernity and Westernization." Library Journal
"A compelling book. One of our most distinguished historians throws a floodlight on that cruel divide between the West and the societies of Islam. Learned and urgent at the same time." Fouad Ajami, The Johns Hopkins University
"Only a scholar of Bernard Lewis's quality could produce the sweep and depth of this fascinating analysis. He gives meaning to history, and illumination and challenge to the question he poses. He brings a clear and lively style to this beautifully written book." George P. Shultz
Includes bibliographical references (p. 167-177) and index.
In this landmark volume, an authority on the Middle East examines the anguished reaction of the Islamic world as it tries to understand why things have changed, how they have been overtaken, overshadowed, and to an increasing extent dominated by the West. 15 illustrations. Map.
About the Author
Bernard Lewis is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies Emeritus at Princeton University. An eminent authority on Middle Eastern history, he is the author of over two dozen books, most notably The Arabs in History, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, The Muslim Discovery of Europe, and The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years. What Went Wrong? has been translated into more than a dozen languages, including Arabic and Turkish. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.