Sep 25, 07
Read in September, 2007
I thought the book was a useful overview of Middle Eastern history from the Roman Empire through the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Obviously that is a lot of ground to cover in less than four hundred pages, so the level of detail is not terribly great. Lewis is aiming instead for a general understanding of the major trends in the region's development. Since the entire subject was new to me at the time of reading this book I had to resign myself to letting many of the dates and names slide past me for the time being; you just can't hope to catch all of the information the first time through. But it did provide me a useful skeleton outline of events and personalities, so that now as I continue to read in the field I am beginning to recognize details I have seen before rather than constantly coming across new information. The book is emphatically not a history of Islam; but only touches on it as a part of the history of the region. But I would suggest the work as a necessary historical background for any serious study of the content and especially the development of the Muslim faith. I would argue that it would be exceptionally difficult to arrive at any decent understanding of Islam without first studying the region in which it originated and the peoples by whom it was adopted and who were/are responsible for its propagation.