The Arabs: A History

In This Review

The Arabs: A History
By Eugene Rogan
Basic Books, 2009
553 pp. $35.00
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The title of this big book evokes memories of Philip Hitti's History of the Arabs, which first appeared 82 years ago, and Albert Hourani's A History of the Arab Peoples, which was published in 1991. But whereas Hitti and Hourani traced Arab history from earliest times, Rogan tackles a mere half millennium. His is the story of Ottoman rule throughout Arab lands from early in the
sixteenth century, its replacement by diverse European colonies starting some three centuries later, decolonization, the rise and fall of Arab nationalism, and the discovery of oil during this past century. The organizing theme is the constant efforts of political elites to cope with change, which was often imposed from outside. Readable and reliable, this sweeping survey balances the unity of a coherent story with due attention to detail. As such, Rogan's contribution belongs in the company of the earlier classics by Hitti and Hourani.