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A History of the Middle East: 4th Edition

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  935 ratings  ·  102 reviews
Over the centuries the Middle East has confounded the dreams of conquerors and peacemakers alike. This now-classic book, fully updated to 2009, follows the historic struggles of the region over the last two hundred years, from Napoleon's assault on Egypt, through the slow decline and fall of the Ottoman Empire, to the painful emergence of modern nations, the Palestinian qu ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published June 6th 2013 by Penguin (first published 1991)
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Jason Koivu
Aug 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war, non-fiction
Holy crap is the Middle East confusing! I thought I had a good grasp on it. After reading this I realize I most certainly did not.

So, I'm glad I read this well structured history lesson in book form, because it helped straighten out some of the intricate political web that has turned that area of the world into the contentious powder keg it's become. The history of the various religions, governments, sovereign leaders and all their disparate aims are difficult to juggle in one's mind. This book
Mar 27, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
It is hard to recommend this book as a good introduction to this topic, as my knowledge of the history of the Middle East is so limited that really, as long as he mentioned Iraq, Persia, Egypt and some stuff about Islam he could have probably told me anything and I’d have been none the wiser. As it was I started off a little concerned when he talked about how great Christianity is and then went on to talk of the myth of Herod killing all the boy children as if it was literally true. I very nearl ...more
Oct 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Listening to History of the Middle East on 14 CDs during my work commute kept my attention from start to finish. An elementary knowledge of the geography both of the Ancient Near East- such as Mesopotamia and Persia- and the modern Middle East will help the reader or listener keep up with Mansfield who writes at breakneck speed.

The most salient features of the book for me are the details of the modern influence of western power and presence in the Middle East- beginning with the incursions of Na
Jan 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
A superb sweep across thirty-six centuries of human history around the Fertile Crescent and the Levant, largely focusing on political and social developments within the last two hundred years. Peter Mansfield's summary and interpretation of events is very neatly written, largely dispassionate, and organized in comprehensibly divided chapters - in my eyes the key characteristics of good historical non-fiction.

This work is a corner stone to understanding why so many states of the Middle East held
Jul 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'll admit, it got a little dry at times, and I felt like maybe I was being forced to read it for a class, but I wasn't. After you get past the first few chapters, where it blows through like 1500 years of history (and then this Sultan, and then this Sultan, and then yet another Sultan...), it gets more interesting. It gets especially interesting when you start connecting the dots and seeing how 20th century events led to what is going on now in the Middle East. I read it because I didn't really ...more
Wendy Jackson
Jul 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the most important book I have read this year. My understanding of regional politics - and my appreciation for their complexity - has grown immensely. The news makes so much more sense to me now.

I read an older edition of the book, which I do not think makes a huge difference because the history of the region is so long. However, now I am keen to find a newer edition, in order to get more of Mansfield's accessible and well-written account of the last twenty years of Middle East
Justin Tapp
One critic has suggested the book "be re-named as A Western History of the Middle East" but I would suggest perhaps "A Political History of the Middle East." It is definitely the view from 10,000 feet, focusing mostly on political maneuvering and power struggles. This makes sense given that Mansfield wrote for papers like The Economist and the Financial Times in the mid-20th century; the majority of the book is devoted to the 20th century. Mansfield largely sets aside theology, almost ignoring a ...more
Tammam Aloudat
Mar 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a journey this book has been. I have read multiple accounts of the history of Arabs and the Middle East including A History of the Arab Peoples, History of the Arabs, A Concise History of the Arabs, and A Concise History of the Middle East written by a mix of Arab and foreign authors, yet, this account stands out very well for being balanced, extensive, and accurate as far as I know.

First, the form, I am impressed by masterful mix of neutral language and readability that the book manages to
Apr 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Foreign interventionists
I'd have wished for this to be more focused on medieval history, but I won't blame the author for writing a book slightly different from the one I expected and hoped for. As it is, the focus clearly lies on the 19th century onward, with the preceeding chapters giving a quick overview over the Middle East. Not too quick, however; we are still talking 150 pages or so here. That is a lot of context, but it's precisely the context you should be thankful for when you read about countries you may neve ...more
I found the writing highly accessible, the subject matter dealt with an effortlessly interesting topic and I felt like the first half of the book was fairly straight forward. Once it gets into the modern times, the author decides that every single problem possibly facing the Middle East is either stemming from Israel or the United States, and ignores ongoing human rights issues, wide spread corruption, the desertification of farm lands, lack of job opportunities or crumbling infrastructure.... T ...more
Nov 28, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good book but covers the political matters of Middle East very Western-point
Russell Chee
No offence to Mr Pelham, but it's like I'm reading two separate books - and one is far superior to the other. In fact, were I to review Mr Mansfield's original first edition, I would unhesitatingly accord this book a solid four-star rating. These first 12 chapters are absolutely brimming with notable positives, yet everything seems to fall apart in the newly appended chapters.

Mr Mansfield has 5000 years of history to cover, but he does it brilliantly, judiciously selecting several key events to
Stanley Hanks
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Middle East is perhaps the region where the future of the world is and will be decided; many of us try to follow developments over the years but end up somewhat confused. The subject matter is so complex that this book, with its 500+ pages of text, is actually concise and a pleasure to read. At no point does one have the impression of getting "too much information". Neither do the authors choose sides, but attempt to remain as objective as possible. The three new chapters by Nicolas Pelham, ...more
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The developed countries in this world are the ones that had the time to develop by themselves, through trial and error, trying out things and establishing what is good for them.

Unfortunately, these developed countries are now spending a lot of time not letting other people develop.

The history of the Middle East, presented in this book with loads of accuracy and objectivity is showing us what happens when for various reasons areas are not allowed to develop by themselves. At first it was the Chr
Philip Larmett
Jun 22, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This was a book that had been on my shelves for a long time, and I finally got round to reading it this year.
Not sure I would call it a good read, sometimes it was heavy going.
As many other commentators say, it is a good primer to the subject.

And a good bibliography at the back for more reading, if we can take it.

There is great detail on Egyptian history, whereas the French involvement in North Africa is barely touched upon.
I am still none the wiser to the difference between Sunni and Shi-ite an
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good introductory history to the Middle East. It's fairly comprehensive except for the final quarter, which seems rushed. To be fair, current events which are tied to events of the past century are still being interpreted and reinterpreted at a fast pace, and so it may be wiser to merely report what's going on rather than attempt in-depth historical analysis. What this book does is start to unravel the excruciatingly complicated relationships between the West and the Middle East and be ...more
Naveed Qazi
Mar 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a meticulous work of Middle East history. Surely, a student of history can reap its benefits academically. Not only that, it is a must have on the bookshelf of history readers.

The book has somewhat intricate details. It is an exhaustive guide of developments happened in the region, from the political side - the reactionary colonial politics, the battle of ideas, nationalism, war, purging state of affairs, search of identities and and so on.

The book reached me from an international couri
Kimber Lybbert
Let me just say that I'm probably the last person in the world qualified to rate this book. It's the first legitimate attempt I've made to learn about the Middle East, so I have no idea if its version of history is skewed one way or another. Mostly I thought it was valuable in that it alerted me to how very little I know about this area of the planet, and made me want to learn more. I can only rate it in those terms--the fact that I wanted to finish reading it, that I did in less than a week, an ...more
Feb 06, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to learn more about the ME and Islam. Interesting. I didn't know much about Ottoman Empire and the different characters of the ME. I don't respect Islam and I do think they are a menacing threat to the world. Kill the infidel is pretty basic. The Shite and Sunni's killing each other is crazy. Like if the charismatics and evangelicals started killing each other. There has never been peace in the ME and there never will be until Jesus returns.
Harry Croft
On the face of it, this is a really remarkable analysis of the modern Middle East. Mansfield and Pelham focus heavily on the political and economic factors, which in turn shaped the religious, social, and even geographical constructs of the Middle Eastern nation-states. There are two areas in which this book falls a little short; firstly, its supreme efforts to describe and analyse the politics of the region on a broad level fail to reveal the individual implications therein, and secondly, there ...more
J. Pablo
I cannot really judge how good this book is, as I'm not a historian or know much about it. What I can see is that it's perfectly accessible to the layperson and these are my takes:

The UK meddled a lot in the middle east. France, Italy and other powers a little bit. That is, until the US became interested in it after WWII and became the biggest meddler.

It is not entirely clear whether that meddling was a net positive or a net negative for such a turbulent region. Then, Europe was probably equally
Joshua Soussan
Peter Mansfield gives an extremely broad overview of the History of the Middle East, helping the reader to understand the basis of conflicts seen to today. The Fifth edition deteriorates in grammar and punctuation towards the end of the book as well at least seven statements that are not factual. The coverage of Israeli history is appalling, making it seem like a vindictive and intolerant country despite the atrocities committed by every other actor in the region.

For those looking for a very ba
Joseph Schlesinger
Very well researched & written review of events, major personalities, rivalries, & political activities ranging from prebiblical times to 1991. The author clearly knows his stuff & is comfortable explaining how the many confusing pieces of this puzzle fit together; writing style is fairly clear & concise (though much more detailed when & where detail is warranted)--&, much more importantly, unbiased. I'd say this is a highly reliable documentation of a part of the world that is still prominently ...more
Ole Phillip
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most interesting books I’ve read for a long time. The region is rich in history, culture and, unfortunately, bloodshed (and not a small amount of mayhem and chaos). The now deceased author, Peter Mansfield, did a great job in keeping all the details interesting and it reads like a thriller at times. I read the edition published after the author’s death but it was important to have the last 2-3 decades as well as I. Urgently live and work in the region.
It is a smashing read, i
Aug 02, 2020 marked it as dnf  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
Halfway through the first chapter (and having skimmed a few others) I can tell this book isn't what I'm looking for. It's well written, but much more detailed particularly in regard to politics than I'm interested in right now. Too many names and dates, and the geographical references can be difficult to follow with any real specificity without a map, as the reference points continually shift or are referred to by alternate names. It'd be nice to come back to this book after having gained a more ...more
Mahyar Azizi
This book gives huge perspective about middle east . I strongly advice book for those who wanna know about middle east. I think this book pay too much attention in each time period to only one country or empire. before world war book talked mostly about ottoman empire , and in 1950s about egypt only. while there is not even a word about Iran in that periods. Also the season of book are too long without partitions.
Lots of great information. It was a bit slow and dry in some parts. I think he needed to explain the cultural and religious factors in the region a bit more. It really focussed on the political aspects and neglected the other important facets of life in the Middle East.

This is just a personal preference, but the chapters were way too long. I wish he had broken things up a bit more. It made it a little harder to get through.
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very good (if not too detailed) introductory reading for anyone who only has basic level of understanding of Middle East history. For various parts it can be a bit difficult to follow if you don't have a map in front of you and keep track of names; but well worth a reading is probably the book I spent the most time on in 2017.
Martins Untals
May 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Comprehensive and very detailed history of middle east. By reading it I could understand how complicated is the history of the region, its political, sectarian and national divisions. And how it all projects into daily news we can see in CNN or BBC. I would certainly recommend it to anybody trying to understand what is going on in one of the most complicated parts of the world.
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little old, but very in-depth analysis and history of the Middle-East, with particular focus on how the West contributed mightily to screwing it up. It also predicted and warned of increased fundamentalist extremism as a reaction to overly invasive western political/military action.
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Peter Mansfield was a British political journalist. He was educated at Winchester and Cambridge. He resigned from the British Foreign Service over the Suez affair in 1956. He worked in Beirut, editing the Middle East Forum and wrote regularly for the Financial Times, The Economist, The Guardian, the Indian Express and other newspapers. From 1961 to 1967 he was the Middle East correspondent of the ...more

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