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The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  361 ratings  ·  42 reviews
Beginning in December 2010 popular revolt swept through the Middle East, shocking the world and ushering in a period of unprecedented unrest. Protestors took to the streets to demand greater freedom, democracy, human rights, social justice, and regime change. What caused these uprisings? What is their significance? And what are their likely consequences? In an engaging que ...more
Paperback, 1, 185 pages
Published 2012 by Oxford
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Dec 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
James Gelvin clearly has incredible knowledge about the Middle East and about the Arab uprisings. I did learn quite a bit from reading this book, but I can attribute that mostly to preexisting (and large) gaps in my knowledge. Overall, this book was poorly researched and opinionated. The question-and-answer format leads the reader, instead of laying out timelines and facts in an unbiased fashion to inform him or her. Nearly all of Gelvin's cited resources are Websites, almost all accessed in a b ...more
Tom Marcinko
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A good resource/briefing, and as timely as a paper book can get.

Conclusion #1: "Uprisings are extraordinary events, and being extraordinary they defy prediction."

Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016, middle-east
Let me attempt to write this review in the same way as this book is written (i.e., question-and-answer format):

Who is this book for and what is its purpose?
- This book is written by an American, Middle East history professor for an American/Western audience. The purpose of the book is to succinctly explain and relate the (ongoing) historical event known as the Arab Spring to the Western reader who has little-to-no knowledge of this event, the peoples affected by it, and the forces driving it.

Naema AbdiRazak
Jul 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Used this book for a couple of times for assignments, informative, very good for research purpose and also increasing your knowledge about economic and political causes of the Arab spring.
Dec 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A good book about the situation in the Arabic world before and during the revolutions.
The explanations about Syria and what happened here are really worthy to read.
Justin Evans
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-etc
It's short, it's packed with information, it's in a question & answer format... there's very little not to love. You will learn, whether you want to or not; and this should be required reading for journalists and editorialists. Okay, there are two things not to like: first, it's like reading 160 pages of wikileaks cables, albeit with only the important stuff left in. Second, he insists on calling middle eastern capitalists 'crony capitalists.' It's not clear to me how they're any different from ...more
Jun 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A great piece of concise literature which illuminates the nuanced complexity of movements too often generalized by the media. Written in a Q&A format, the answers are both richly informative and terse. This piece does a fantastic job at dispelling misconceptions and oversimplification of the events discussed, and is meticulously sectioned, providing for easy referencing. ...more
Jeff Free
Jan 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Perfect--quick, concise, insightful, current. Read this in the next 6 months
Nov 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
worthless, don’t waste your time, this book is good for CNN puppets and people with lack of knowledge about Middle East, good for primary school report.
Justin Lee
Oct 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I believe I am the reader this book is intended for. I do not have much knowledge of Middle Eastern politics, nor do I know much history of the region. I can admit that my only knowledge comes from the occasional article/headline, but here's a lot I do not know. Even though this book is over 6 years old, there is a lot of good information here. It's easy to access with a nice question and answer format. It's somewhat basic, intended for a 101 level reader. I did learn a lot from this and enjoyed ...more
Aug 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
I had this book on the shelf as it was required reading for a Middle Eastern Studies course in college - thought I would come back to it and read again considering all that is and has been occurring in the Arab world but was severely disappointed. From a more leftist standpoint, this book missed the mark in many ways for me and had quite shallow analysis on the uprisings in the Arab world - I am in need of recommendations for a book on the topic with a leftist analysis so I can deepen my underst ...more
Claudio Sultana
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
As a student with interest in politics this book gave me a great overview of what happened in the Arab uprisings and some explanations for them. For any beginner on this subject this book is a must read.
Flor Cita
Dec 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
It is a very easy read. It doesnt go into incredible debt and the format of the book is pretty easy to follow. Gelvin writes basic questions and then answers them. Great book to read to start learning about the Arab Uprisings. But definitely not the ONLY book you should read about it.
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
good if you want somewhere to start understanding the topic. It also avoids simplistic explanations to the diferent questions it raises.
Covey Mcallister
May 29, 2019 rated it liked it
A bit out of date now but a good jumping off point!
Meral Ma
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anybody who wants to read about the arab spring,start with this book.
Carissa Carns
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Had him as a professor in college, informative to a recent and relevant history.
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Read as much of this as I could (page 98 of 158), but the Q&A format killed it for me. Guess my search for a decent book on this topic will continue. ...more
May 01, 2012 rated it liked it
Gelvin’s The Modern Middle East: A History has been incredibly helpful to me in understanding how the modern world has shaped the Middle East. Modern concepts of progress, state power, and economics have all made a big impact, coming together in what has been called the “interventionist-redistributionist” model that prescribes a government that actively manages the economy and an extensive welfare state. Gelvin believes that the major factor in the Arab uprisings has been their governments’ revi ...more
Satya Ananthu
May 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Good overview of uprisings in the Arab world. The book is laid out in a FAQ fashion, but fairly cohesive chapters.

The monarchs of the Arab world were partying with their families and close associates with Oil money and grants, and did not build self-sufficient and sustainable economies. People were denied basic rights and the institutions in place were only serving interests of the establishment. People were kept happy by throwing free money at them, called the 'ruling bargain'. As soon as that
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: current-affairs
This is a useful introduction to the history and politics of the region. Covered in a question-and-answer format that makes it pretty easy to read and absorb. While academic in tone (not surprisingly), this brief exploration is not overly weighed-down with footnotes and references. It's nice that most of these references are on the Web.

If you're looking for a way to start understanding what's happening in Egypt, Syria, Libya and the other Arab countries living through uprisings, this is the book
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2012
I was required to read this book for a course I'm taking before we attend our first class. It was easy and informative. I read it in 3 days, as well as took notes and highlighted to refer back to later.

I'm not a fan of the question & answer format in any book, and this was no exception. It seemed to me that in some of the questions, it was almost impossible to find what the answer was. I had to re-read those sections multiple times in order to find what the whole point was for my notes.

Dec 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great insight into the very complex Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region. A country-by-country FAQ that manages to avoid being overly dry. The only downside to this book is that it came out before the uprising of the Islamic State, which is very much an elephant in the room throughout, so to speak. However, if you're curious about the uprisings and its differences in each country, the has very good information on the events and historical significance. Worth the read for those who are not yet ...more
Jul 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: middle-east
Reading this book 5 years after the Uprisings is strange but still useful. Gelvin uses a Q and A format to give background on the uprisings, explore why they unfolded as they did, how they differed and why. He also provides some analysis on US policy before and during the uprisings. The book is written for readers with minimal background in the region, very accessible for students, I would think.
Jenna Spencer
Nov 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Clear and to the point, just enough history to make you feel like you new enough to explore the events. Gelvin never pretended to know more that he did, and when he was not fully sure to what the answer to a question he posed was he would just present you with the facts from many angle. I like the way the book was set up. Just a good, well present book.
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: uni
Truly an informative book, even if it does gloss over issues - which is fair, considering how broad the scope Gelvin covers is. I've read sections of his Modern Middle East: A History book for class (along with this book) and I really like his writing style - to the point, not bogged down with hefty words and academic pretension like many other readings I've encountered in grad school.
Vlad Vaslyn
Jan 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
An extremely accessible book that gives a crash course in what has been fueling the uprisings in the Middle East. Great for insulated westerners who haven't bothered to assess the underlying causes of turmoil in that part of the world.
Jan 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
very informative.
I also suggest The Last Pharaoh: Mubarak and the Uncertain Future of Egypt in the Obama Age

Jim Flora
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Quick read with many astute observations. Highly recommended if you're interested in this topic.
Thomas Stevenson
May 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A marvelous, short picture of what happened and why. Too bad many reporters were not as insightful.
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James L. Gelvin is an American scholar of Middle Eastern history. He has been a faculty member in the department of history at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) since 1995 and has written extensively on the history of the modern Middle East, with particular emphasis on nationalism and the social and cultural history of the modern Middle East.

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