Khalaf has arguably contributed more fine studies on the history and sociology of modern Lebanon than has any other scholar alive. That notable achievement explains both the strength and the weakness of this unconventional history. After the first three (more theoretical) chapters, Khalaf proceeds chronologically from the early nineteenth century onward, first concentrating on the internal wars in the 1840s, 1857-60, and 1958, and then moving to the harrowing civil war that raged from 1975 to 1990. The book in fact resembles a dialogue with those specialists who have studied either Lebanon or the causes and consequences of social violence. Nonspecialists must confront many names, places, and dates not always sufficiently explained. Khalaf's interpretation of Lebanon's descent into violence is subtle, but he leans more toward the external causes (such as foreign meddling) than the internal ones (such as the inadequate political system). His concluding "Prospects for Civility" is equally nuanced: "urban designers, architects, intellectuals of all shades and persuasions, along with other outraged but muted groups" should work at the grassroots level to restore public space and comity.