Most helpful critical review
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not as an introduction
on 27 July 2013
Peter Mansfield and Nicholas Pelham are very objective, and they recount many historical happenstances in the context of their effects on the present day. Nonetheless, it is a little dry at times, and difficult to read in places, especially for someone like me who does not have a lot of background in the Middle East. Your knowledge of various sects are taken for granted, they're not introduced. That I found was a big drawback.
Personally I preferred the last 3 chapters by Nicholas Pelham, who writes with more verve than Mansfield, though I am aware that others prefer them the other way around. Nonetheless, even when I was on familiar territory, they condense the narrative so much that it's hard for an outsider to the subject.
Ultimately, I found the chapters on Egypt (particularly Muhammed Ali), Iran/Persia, and Israel/Palestine to be the most interesting, followed by the third chapter on the Ottoman Empire and the Tanzimat Reforms. The book definitely has a focus on these countries, though I shouldn't overstate that, since it does try to cover the whole region for the last 200 years - not an easy task.
In essence, this is probably a brilliant book for a student who knows some of the ropes, but for someone new to the subject, I don't really recommend it as an introduction - it's far too dry.