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A History of the Arab Peoples Hardcover – Mar 1 1991

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1st Edition edition (March 1 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674395654
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674395657
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 16.5 x 24.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 998 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #358,351 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Hourani examines Arabic-speaking nations of the Islamic world from the seventh century to the present in a volume that spent 12 weeks on PW 's bestseller list and was a History Book Club main selection. Illustrated.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Hourani (Emeritus Fellow, St. Anthony's College, Oxford) is the author of several well-known books on the Middle East, including Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age (Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1983) and The Emergence of the Modern Middle East (Univ. of California Pr., 1980). This work, the first full-scale single-volume history of the Arabic-speaking peoples of the Islamic world in several decades, begins with Islam's rise in the 7th century and carries the rich and imposing story of Arab civilization to the late 1980s. In broad, sweeping strokes, Hourani moves easily from mosque to marketplace, from sultan to imam , from nomad to city-dweller, from Mohammed to Sadat. He dwells on the Ottoman Empire and on the European colonialism that followed, and concludes with a discussion of the modern resurgence of Islam that offers hope to thousands of Muslims and appears so threatening to Westerners. Written by a master historian, this work is now the definitive study of the Arab peoples. Recommended for interested laypersons and scholars; required reading for all specialists.
- Roger B. Beck, Eastern Illinois Univ., Charleston
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a concise introduction to the history of the Arab people. It is fairly easy to read, yet comprehensive; interesting, yet dispassionate. Albert Hourani does an excellent job presenting an overall picture of Arab history and society. I particularly enjoyed how this book considers history as more than a mere collection of events and dates or the conquests of kings. Rather, for every historical period, it attempts to paint a picture of the lives of ordinary people. Thus we learn about education, religion, law, marriage, and other aspects of society. This is a major strength of the book.
Naturally, in a book about Arab history, a great deal of emphasis is put on Islamic religion, which is perhaps the most potent force shaping Arab history and culture. In a way therefore this book also offers an excellent introduction to Islam and Islamic history. Nevertheless, I would have liked to see more material about pre-Islamic times. Furthermore, while the title "Arab peoples" acknowledges the fact that most of the modern-day "Arabs" are descended from non-Arabs who at some point adopted Arab language and culture, this point is not made explicit in the text, and the pre-Arab history of these peoples is ignored. Having said that, I admit that it is impossible to include any more information about Arab history in the same number of pages (500), making this book a definite accomplishment. It is an excellent and readable introduction to Arab history, and a lead to other more specialized books (listed in the 27-page bibliography). The index alone reads like a who's who in Arab history.
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Format: Paperback
To those who say this is a boring book, or there isn't any history I laugh. This is the most complete chronicle of Arab History to date. Boring? yes if you're used to reading your history in the tabloids. The book covers thirteen centuries of history in 458 pages. It starts in the seventh century, introducing the Arab world at its first critical turning point: the coming of the Prophet Muhammad. Before the Prophet the people lived in a state of jahiliyya (or ignorance of religious truth).
After giving a good background on the Prophet the book moves swiftly to describe the Arab world after his death. He does this in such a way as to include sociology, politics, religion (of course), culture, war, alliances, and literature. No other author can claim such a comprehensive outlook on the situation as Hourani.
Next his analysis takes the same broad scope on the Ottoman age and discusses the last, great empire of the Arab world (although they are not Arab). He discusses how the Arab people responded to these outside rulers and finally how the Ottoman empire responded to the growing power of the European empires.
He goes on to discuss how the European empires controlled the Arab world, how they fought over the land and trade routes, and how the Arab world responded to this. He discusses how education was very much Europeanized (especially in the Magrib, or northern Africa, where Arab culture did not affect the culture as much from the beginning).
In the last part he discusses the age of nations and the conflicts which aroused from having been colonized (not in the sense you would think however, instead of purely blaming the colonizers he merely shows how this created great differences in the culture and political and religious ideals of the people).
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Format: Paperback
As many of the other reviewers have noted, Hourani's book is comprehensive in scope. Some reviewers have called it "dry as the desert." I disagree somewhat. I found Hourani's writing style smooth and comprehendible. In the end, the extensive supporting detail he provides is what tired me out. For example, in chapter 26 he wrote about the renewal of heritage in 20th century and the various forms it took in the literary world. He then goes on to give four pages of detail about various writers. So you can expect lots of supporting detail and examples. At times I found myself quickly glossing over those details of no interest to me. On the other hand, like some other reviewers, I wish the book had more depth on a few topics that interested me (early life of Muhammad, origins and nature of Sufism, Palestine/Israel issues, etc.). However, these kinds of gripes are probably to be expected, since the editorial choices and cuts of such a broad topic are so difficult to make.
The book is also very well designed. It includes an index of terms like "hadith" and "mahdi", an extensive bibliography, notes, a general index, genealogical trees, lists of dynasties, 39 BW photographs, and most importantly -- plenty of maps.
Finally, the treatment and discussion of Israel seemed dispassionate and concise.
Overall, I enjoyed the book and learned a great deal.
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Format: Paperback
Albert Hourani provides an excellent survey of Arabic and Islamic history beginning with the onset of Islam during the early seventh century and ending at the 1980's, before the first Gulf War. In each epoch, Hourani not only covers the political history in question, but also social, philosophical and religious developments.
Although the book is entitled "A History of the Arab Peoples," it also covers a great deal of Persian and Turkish/Ottoman history. Despite the tremendous scope of time and space - over 1300 years and spanning from Spain to the East Indies - Hourani furnishes the reader with a solid view of the many currents that underlie modern Islam.
I hope that this book will help provide a more nuanced understanding of the Islamic and Arab world - a world that is often viewed as monolithic by the West. Aided perhaps by the survey nature of the text, the political bent of the book will be viewed as "balanced" by most non-partisan readers.
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