Monday, August 17, 2009

A History of the Arab Peoples

A History of the Arab Peoples
© 1991 Albert Hourani
565 pages, including appendices, maps, notes, and index.

I picked this up (with both hands) to add historical context for my reading of The Essential Koran and to fill in the gaps of my knowledge of Arab history, which are as vast as the sands of the Arabian desert. Hourani's History is an expansive work, covering Arab history from the arrival of Muhammed to the late 1980s. The work is general history, with seperate sections within a chapter covering political, social, and economic change. There is a wealth of information here, although that comes at a price: some sections, particularly political history after the first part of the book, feel rushed. Sixty pages after the Ottoman Empire rises, it is the sick man of Europe and the Young Turks are attempting to seize control. Although it is readable, I think the book better serves as a reference than a popular history read, especially given the way Hourani divides the book -- most notably, his pause from the general political history of the first part of the book to deliver several chapters on the geography of the Arab world and life in its cities and countrysides.

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