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What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response Paperback – 7 Nov 2002

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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: W&N; New Ed edition (7 Nov. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 075381675X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753816752
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.8 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 188,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Arguably the West's most distinguished scholar on the Middle East."--Newsweek"Lewis has done us all--Muslim and non-Muslim alike--a remarkable service.... The book's great strength, and its claim upon our attention, [is that] it offers a long view in the midst of so much short-term and confusing punditry on television, in the op-ed pages, on campuses and in strategic studies think tanks." --Paul Kennedy, The New York Times Book Review"When it comes to Islamic studies, Bernard Lewis is the father of us all. With brilliance, integrity, and extraordinary mastery of languages and sources, he has led the way for Jewish and Christian investigators seeking to understand the Muslim world."--National Review"A timely and provocative contribution to the current raging debate about the tensions between the West and the Islamic world.... One wishes leaders in the Islamic world would pay heed to some of Lewis' themes." --Stanley Reed, Business Week"A sobering picture, delivered with persuasive detail and respect. Bernard Lewis comes not to bury Islam, but to praise what it once was--and might be again."--Carlin Romano, Philadelphia Inquirer"Lucidly argued and richly supported by telling quotations.... Lewis is a persuasive chronicler of Muslim resistance to change and modernity."--Robert Irwin, Washington Post Book World"An accessible and excitingly knowledgeable antidote to today's natural sense of befuddlement." --Michael Pakenham, Baltimore Sun"Replete with the exceptional historical insight that one has come to expect from the world's foremost Islamic scholar." --Karen Elliott House, Wall Street Journal"A provocative and suggestive review of Islamic response to ideas and practices of the Christian West.... Lewis has given us a thoughtful treatment of the historical backdrop of the Sept. 11 tragedy." --Fritz Lanham, Houston Chronicle"A compelling book. One of our most distinguished historians throws a floodlig --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A bestselling account of why the Islamic world has been losing the conflict with the West for 300 years - and the frustration and humiliation this has produced.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Bojan Tunguz TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 April 2011
Format: Paperback
As many other readers have suggested, this is not Bernard Lewes' best work, and it is a bit of a failure in one important respect: it doesn't answer the rhetorical question from the title. Lewis is much better at describing historic events and finding out insightful and important tidbits of information than he is at deeper analysis. This is quite understandable, since he is a historian of the old school and neither political nor social scientist. Nonetheless, this is a fascinating and interesting book, and anyone who is not familiar with the history of the Middle East, especially compared to the history of Europe, would benefit from reading it. The book was completed shortly before 9/11 attacks on the US, but in its themes it proved extremely prescient and relevant. Lewis is very sympathetic towards his subject matter, the peoples and cultures of the Middle East, and is fair minded and balanced when presenting historical facts. His is not the goal of condemning and denigrating Middle Eastern peoples and the Islamic word, but a genuine concern for explaining that part of the world, and through explaining aiding in its understanding. This is an admirable book that goes a long way towards achieving that goal.
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28 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Feb. 2003
Format: Paperback
"What Went Wrong?" is a short question about a very big problem. The Muslim world, which once led the world in wealth, arts and sciences, now lags most of the world in wealth, arts and sciences. What was once a dominant world culture is now no longer dominant and has been surpassed not only by the West, but also has been surpassed by much of East Asia. This is the problem that is the subject of this book.
Bernard Lewis writes lucidly about what he knows best - the results of his many years of distinguished scholarship in the history of the Middle East. He sheds much light on the answer to the question of "what went wrong?". He starts with the Muslim world's discovery of a challenge on its frontiers with the history of its military failures that started in the early 18th century. He then goes on to describe the impact of this challenge on the Muslim cultural world. The impact was mostly in the form of various Muslim attempts (mostly failed) to capture for itself the secret ingredients of wealth and power. More than any other author Prof. Lewis will bring you closer to the answers and prospects for the future. His arguments are particularly good on the Western impact on politics, administration and science in the Middle East. His book has little to say on the economic history of the region, which I thought would be central to answering the question "what went wrong?".
The reader will enjoy the book for its style and the authority of its scholarship. Note the chapter notes and bibliography that are both solidly packed with sources in the original Middle Eastern languages. This is a refreshing change from most other popular scholarship on the topic (e.g. Esposito's The Islamic Threat) that seems to be based upon secondary sources in only one language - English.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By D on 29 July 2006
Format: Paperback
After finishing this book I wasnt sure if the author had answered the question the book posed. The first 80-100 pages of this book give a good history of the relationship between Europe and the Middle East which is useful to those without a deep knowledge of the subject. The Author then moves on to the changes, mainly cultural, in the Middle East and the effects of these changes on Muslims.

The author, in my opinion doesnt explain in enough detail why the present situation exists and the political events of the twentieth century are overlooked somewhat. This is probably because of the relatively short length of the book (at 180 pages). Had the book been longer, the author could, Im sure, have provided a detailed history of the muslim world and then concentrated on the effects of the changes. In less than 200 pages the author seems to have been hard pressed to detail the changes to the muslim world and the consequences.

Overall this is a good book but not for the beginner. Due to its brief length and therefore a lack of space for explanation, some knowledge of the Muslim world and Islam would be useful, particularly names of posts and religious terms. As a short read on a important contemporary issue, I would recommend it.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Kurt A. Johnson on 15 July 2004
Format: Hardcover
This interesting book is really two books in one. The first part of this book is a fascinating history of the interaction between the Ottoman Empire and the Christian West. The author begins in the sixteenth century, when the Ottoman Empire appeared to be the height of power and culture, while Christian Europe appeared to be comparatively weak and barbarous. However, as the dialogue continues the reader sees the Empire pass into first relative and then absolute decline, as the West gained more and more power. The steps taken by the Ottomans to stem their decline are shown, as is the reason why they were ineffective. This dialogue is quite interesting, and explains a great deal about how the Muslim world evolved.
Starting in the sixth chapter, the author changes to an examination of Islam, and its fundamental differences with Christianity. In particular, I found the author's analysis of the polyphonic nature of Western music and syncretic nature of Western civilization to be quite intriguing.
The final chapter brings the narrative around to the subject of the title, What Went Wrong? Why is it that Islam was so inventive and civilized at it's beginning, and yet moved so far away from such things? No definite answer is given.
This book is a fascinating look at Islam, one that I highly recommend to anyone who is interested in understanding the evolution of Islam, and how the Muslim world go to where it is today.
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