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The Arabs (Penguin History) Paperback – 25 Jun 1992


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Paperback, 25 Jun 1992
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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; 5th Revised edition edition (25 Jun 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140147683
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140147681
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 2.5 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 563,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Peter Mansfield (1928-1996) corresponded regularly for the Financial Times, Economist, and London Sunday Times on Middle Eastern affairs. The author and editor of numerous works, he is best known for his comprehensive study The Arabs.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Sep 2012
Format: Paperback
Peter Mansfield was a learned British historian and journalist who made the "Arab World" his life's work. He resigned from the British Foreign Service over the 1956 invasion of Suez. This book was published in 1976, way before current concerns about "terrorism" or "clashes of civilizations" but even then as he says in the chapter entitled "Through Western Eyes": "Any writer who embarks on an attempt to describe and interpret the contemporary Arab world to Western readers is confronted by a set of formidable difficulties. At the superficial level he encounters a stereotyped vision of the Arabs...a more complex problem is that the average educated Westerner is unaware the he suffers from prejudice towards the Arabs. The New England or Hampstead liberal would be alarmed to find himself making a derogatory generalization about "the blacks," the Chinese" or, still more, "the Jews." He feels no such compunction in his thoughts about "the Arabs." This book should help instill such a compunction.

The first two thirds of the book, some 370 pages, addresses who the Arabs are, and their rise, fall, and rise again, along with their interactions with the neighboring European civilization. He takes care to distinguish "the Arabs" from the adherents of Islam in general. He admirably and succinctly tells the tale of the rise and spread of Islam, reaching from the Atlantic to India and beyond, in some 50 years. During the European "dark ages," following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Arab world was the center of learning, and preserved most of the ancient Greek works for the modern world.
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Format: Paperback
This book provides a brilliant introductory history to the Arab people. It is meticulously researched and extremely well written which makes it a pleasure to read. Well worth a read.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Robert E. Miller on 2 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As the title suggests this is probably the best book written about this proud nation of people. I took it and Thesiger to Abu Dhabi with me when I went to visit the Bedouin schools in The Empty Quarter earlier this year.

I commend it to you
Bob Miller
Chelmsford
2.11.10
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A definitive but digestible history 11 Jan 2000
By Nigel Parry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I had the opportunity to meet Peter Mansfield a few times when I worked in London between 1993 and 1994, a softly-spoken and dignified man who had made it his life's work to learn about and understand the Arab World and its relationship with the colonial powers.
Sadly, Mansfield has since passed away, but this book remains as a beautiful epitaph that is as close to a definitive but digestible history of the Arab people as I've read.
Recommended for those who want to understand the big picture before getting into the detail of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant book 14 Sep 2000
By G M - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
If you're looking for a compact but detailed history and description of the Arab world, it's difficult to imagine a book that can top this one. I picked it off the shelf thinking it would be just another dull chronology - but when I examined its layout, I just had to have it. It consists of three sections: a detailed and highly readable 300-page history of the Arab world; a set of brief chapters on each Arab country; and a final short section on how the Arabs are viewed by both themselves and Westerners.
The ability to pick a single country to read about individually is the aspect of the book that most stands out for me: I was really interested in reading about just five or six Arab countries, and I wasn't about to buy a book on each of them. This book solved the problem brilliantly.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Excellent History of Arabs up to '80s 4 Mar 2009
By History Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent review of Arab and Middle Eastern history up to the 1980s. (It was originally published in he 1970s, with a second, updated edition about 1986.) It fills in the gaps for those of us who have only been paying attention to that part of the world for the last decade or so. It also makes clear the tensions between the different ethnic groups in the Middle East, particularly between the Arabs and the Turks.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
It remains an essential one volume introduction, or reference... 14 Sep 2012
By John P. Jones III - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Peter Mansfield was a learned British historian and journalist who made the "Arab World" his life's work. He resigned from the British Foreign Service over the 1956 invasion of Suez. This book was published in 1976, way before current concerns about "terrorism" or "clashes of civilizations" but even then as he says in the chapter entitled "Through Western Eyes": "Any writer who embarks on an attempt to describe and interpret the contemporary Arab world to Western readers is confronted by a set of formidable difficulties. At the superficial level he encounters a stereotyped vision of the Arabs...a more complex problem is that the average educated Westerner is unaware the he suffers from prejudice towards the Arabs. The New England or Hampstead liberal would be alarmed to find himself making a derogatory generalization about "the blacks," the Chinese" or, still more, "the Jews." He feels no such compunction in his thoughts about "the Arabs." This book should help instill such a compunction.

The first two thirds of the book, some 370 pages, addresses who the Arabs are, and their rise, fall, and rise again, along with their interactions with the neighboring European civilization. He takes care to distinguish "the Arabs" from the adherents of Islam in general. He admirably and succinctly tells the tale of the rise and spread of Islam, reaching from the Atlantic to India and beyond, in some 50 years. During the European "dark ages," following the fall of the Roman Empire, the Arab world was the center of learning, and preserved most of the ancient Greek works for the modern world. Of note, Mansfield identifies the famous Arab historian, Ibn Khaldoun, and his acceptance of "the orthodox view which rejected any rationalistic approach to the search for knowledge and truth, he also was hostile to the sciences and philosophy," as being a significant force in the Arab World's decline around the 1200's. Europe was to have its Renaissance, and the respective outlooks of these two principal civilizations was largely reversed. Eventually, almost the entire Arab World would be subjugated by European colonialism. Mansfield temperately and accurately depicted European duplicity towards the area, particularly the "secret" Sykes-Picot agreement, "secret" until the Bolsheviks published it from the Russian archives. It was only after the Second World War that the Arabs again became independent. The author devotes several chapters to the creation of the state of Israel; viewed as a "disaster" by the Arabs, Mansfield covers their revolt against it, and the "disunity, frustration and defeat" that was their side of the 1967 war.

In Part II, Mansfield devotes a chapter to each of the 15 countries (or areas) of the Arab World. At the time, there were two Yemens, and each receives a chapter. He lumps the small Gulf States into one chapter. It remains a diverse region, stretching from the Arabian Gulf, through the Sudan, to the Atlantic. Even in those very early days of the oil boom, the money in the Gulf area was already rapidly changing those societies. Mansfield says: "The oil states were in the vanguard of the Third World in fulfilling the 1966 UN General Assembly resolution about acquiring permanent sovereignty over natural resources."

In the final part, Mansfield looks at the respective Western and Arab perspectives on current events (as of 1976). He also examines the yearning for "Arab Unity," subtitled "Ideal or Fantasy"? Alas, not only are not any Arab countries uniting, (save the Yemen!) but many are internally fractured, as Lebanon would become when this book was published. Palestine remains "the open wound," to use the author's expression, almost 40 years on. And yes, oil remains "power."

The search for the essential "one-volume" history of a given country or region can prove elusive. For the Arab World however, I would continue to recommend Mansfield's masterly account. 5-stars, plus.
Self-Identity and Foreign Views 12 Feb 2009
By Orville B. Jenkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Mansfield presents a country-by-country survey of all the Arab peoples of the world. Mansfield is a historian and journalist bringing 30 years of field experience to this work.

His analysis helps clarify how various Islamic movements have dealt with the challenges relating to modernization, technology and the modern world political system. As part of this process, he discusses the causes and results of the 1990 Gulf War.

Note that Mansfield is focusing on Arab peoples, not all Islamic peoples of the world. However, in this process, he also includes a perspective on the relationship of the Arab countries and Islamic movements to non-Arab Islamic peoples and sects.

This able author looks at the data in different ways, providing a multi-faceted view. He provides a historical focus, which helps to understand how we got where we are. Filling in many details often missed in the somewhat abstract chronologies we expect, Mansfield includes here an analysis by country.

This brings to life the individual situations that are often ignored when the stock western political analysis refers to the "Arab World." As you read Mansfield's discussion of each country, you realize these are people like everyone else, trying to make sense of the puzzling forces and situations in which they are caught up. Real life rarely matches the simple back and white of political rhetoric and media sound bites.

Extremely insightful is a third view in which Mansfield compares self-views of the various Arab peoples and the view of them by foreigners. Readers will find this book an enriching experience.
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