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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.
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on 14 March 2015
The reviews of this varied from the obscure to the very positive about the insight into the middle east without making it to scholarly, so I bought this based on it being not too a heavy a read. I was wrong.

The book flashes from one area/term/person to another such that if you don't have a photographic memory and a previous insight into the history
(which is what I bought this book to start with), then it quickly becomes hard going.

The single most important area I wanted to understand was the background behind Sunnis and Shia's Muslims. The one paragraph this is mentioned is so convoluted I resorted to Wikipedia and wished I'd tried this in the first place.

I have persevered with the book and will finish it (there are great insights into the British insular attitude to Egypt as an example), but if you want a clear understand of the Middle East, then I would look elsewhere first.
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on 28 March 2014
Given that the book spans a few centuries and more than a few cultures and nations it cannot be expected of the author to have an equally deep understanding in all the fields he is covering. Some chapters give a good & sufficient understanding of the events they encompass but others fail, managing to give a rather superficial knowledge of the historical phenomena. Take the chapter on Iran for example, the author states that Nader's genius was purely military and he therefore neglected and thereby failed in matters of statecraft. This just illustrates the authors ignorance of the internal political constraints within the system of the Persian empire at the time. I loathe to contemplate how many other chapters that I read were equally lacking in a deep understanding of the underlying realities of the events. Best thought of as an introduction for people who know little or nothing of the modern near east.
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on 11 February 2008
Lacks references/ citations of sources of evidence that one would expect to find in an authoritative work; therefore not really a scholarly work.
Peter Mansfield's narrative is interesting but where, later in the book, it has been 'revised and updated' by Nicolas Pelham it reads like sunday newspaper journalism.
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on 9 May 2010
Having lost my first copy, I was keen to get a replacement since Peter Mansfield's ( and Nicolas Pelham's) descriptions of history and relations in the Middle East excel in succinctness, objective observations and its drawing of llines of development towards the present day situation. The book can be considered a sequel to PM's book "The Arabs", a very good introduction to the peoples of the Middle East. A "must read" for interested , in particular for expats living in the region.
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on 7 November 2000
This book covers the Middle East since 1800 in an fascinating way. Th reader is drawn into facts and expalnations of the differnt views. Peter Mansfield combines the rare talent of total political and cultural understanding of the MIddle East with great narrative skill. This book is a must have for anyone who wants to better understand the Middle East as it is today.
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on 6 June 2009
There is much to admire and a fair bit to be considered a drawback in Peter Mansfield's sweep of the History of the Middle East.
To fit such a swathe of history into a small 400-page paperback is a bit of an art form in itself. Mansfield has a reasonable overview and a clear love of the Arabs throughout the book though he tries to be even handed throughout. There are obvious lacks and missing pieces throughout and it becomes somewhat eurocentric early on but in the age of empires this was the playground of the European empire hunters and the struggles were played out through many territories. There is also some of the old mechanistic line-through view of history and writing about history which comes through into the book as well. However given that this has to be seen as an overview of a vast stage of events then one can excuse this to a degree.
The latter chapters were written by Pelham and what they lack in grandee like writing of Mansfield they give an alternative to his view and style. A reviewer above called it Sunday-paper journalism but his sections read more like closet exiled academic.
This book tries very hard to give the reader the basis from which to look deeper into the areas that it covers. It raised my awareness generally and makes a good start from which to go on into deeper and more detailed studies. It needs to be regarded as a primer for further work. As a primer it does do a decent job but needs to read with a degree of awareness and not devoured as one. Read with a History of the Arab People and maybe Fisk's writing it points you in the right direction and wets your appetite for further understanding. It also does what all good books do and that is to make you reflect.
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on 7 September 2015
The author presents a mass of information on the evolution of Middle East politics, with each other and with the outside world but the book remains readable. He brings out the importance of the different factions both within and across the countries of the region, which is a great aid to getting to grips with current developments.
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on 27 May 2014
Found this very useful for my history coursework about the Middle East.
Very insightful and unbiased views.
Would highly recommend.
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on 30 December 2013
a great historical introduction for a western reader. objective, erudite, humane. but conventional in approach - focusing on the major political figures and their actions, without much on economics, social change, culture. pelham's more recent chapters are at least as good as mansfield's original ones. very little on north africa.
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