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Customer Review

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Primer worth starting from, 6 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: A History of the Middle East (Paperback)
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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