This is the ninth edition of Arthur Goldschmidt's classic textbook. Goldschmidt is emeritus professor of history at Penn State and a specialist on Egypt. Lawrence Davidson has been brought in on this edition to bring the text up to date with current developments in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the latest Gulf War, a task for which Davidson is eminently suitable.
Previous editions of this textbook had become unwieldy because of the sheer volume of work that has been produced on Southwest Asia in the last two decades and, of course, in light of current events: 9/11, the Iraq War, and the breakdown of the peace process in Palestine. The authors in my opinion have done an excellent job in trimming the text and fashioning what is once more the most succinct and clearly written history of the Middle East, one that is free of overt bias--that is to say, the authors do not shy from offering arguments based on evidence, but they avoid an overt presentist, political agenda.
The new edition also has an excellent chronology of events, useful, clear maps, a thorough glossary of terms, and bibliographic essay with suggested readings on everything touched on in the book. The chapters are divided into short sections on specific themes, which also makes the work an excellent, easy-to-use reference book. Finally, they have included short--usually one page--accounts of key figures and events. There may be a lack of primary source material in the text; but this book is for students, who, in my experience want clear explication and a lively presentation of the material and often ignore the primary source "blurbs" provided in most textbooks. If you want to read primary sources, there are any number of good source readers on the Middle East, Islam, etc. from which to choose.
Unfortunately, some reviewers below have suggested that the authors are somehow anti-Zionist and pro-Muslim ideologues. This is a gross misrepresentation. Neither in this work, or in their other more focused studies do Goldschmidt or Davidson adopt a one-sided perspective on Middle Eastern politics. They offer us a sympathetic account of Islamic civilization, but not one that overlooks the conflicts within the Islamic movement throughout history. This is the greatest strength: they do not treat "the Muslim World" as monolithic or its history as a single narrative of violence, backwardness, or "anti-modernism." Just because the authors do not endorse the view that all Muslims are militant radicals bent on world domination and that Israel has the god-given right to absorb all of Palestine--Gaza, West Bank, Sinai, and who knows what else--does this make them apologists of Islam? To those who wish to see propaganda rather than history, I suppose the answer would be yes. But the authors are not the ones with the axes to grind; it is these intemperate, narrow-minded readers, who wish only to read things that affirm their identity politics rather than works that might challenge or, better, complicate their myopic, simplistic view of the world.
If you are looking for a text to use as an instructor, or just someone interested in a general history that is not over-burdened with scholarly jargon, this is it.
On the other hand, if you are looking for in-depth treatment of certain areas of Afro-Eurasia and specific aspects of Islamic culture, then the work's concision is also perhaps a drawback. However, there are so many specialized studies, one cannot hold it against these authors that they did not write a ten-volume history that deals with absolutely everything. I would look into the authors' extensive, annotated bibliographic essay for specialized works if you want to read more on any of the topics covered in their book. These authors should be lauded for their succinct analysis and the ability to focus us in on key themes without becoming bogged down in detail, or overt presentist biases.