James Gelvin's concise new history of the region is "perfect for the MTV generation."
The book is divided into chronologically arranged thematic chapters, thus avoiding the "one damned thing after another" approach to history. It includes a glossary of terms and thumbnail sketches of major figures, with excerpts from primary sources, anecdotal vignettes, maps and archival photographs adding to the interest and the usefulness of each section.
An award winning teacher, Gelvin knows both what students want to learn and what they need to learn. He presents Middle East history within a global framework, balancing social, cultural, economic and political history while calling attention to how historians practice their craft.
Gelvin uses a working definition of the modern period as beginning with the inception of the world economic and nation-state systems in the sixteenth century, when the so-called Gunpower Empires were rising in the Middle East and South Asia and commercial revolution and technological change in Europe were opening the New World to trade.
In the face of popular wisdom about the inevitable clash between East and West, Gelvin offers an alternative approach to understanding the genealogy of contemporary events. By us on a guided tour of the past five hundred years of Middle East history, he examines how the very forces associated with global modernity have shaped the region, exploring the impact of imperialist legacies, the great nineteenth-century transformation, the cultural continuities and upheavals, international diplomacy, economic booms and busts, the emergence of authoritarian regimes and current challenges to those regimes in an area of vital concern to us all.
James Gelvin is an Associate Professor of History at UCLA. He is author of Divided Loyalties: Nationalism and Mass Politics in Syria at the Close of Empire (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998) and numerous shorter works.
Published: Wednesday, September 29, 2004
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