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A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and The Creation of the Modern Middle East

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  6,998 ratings  ·  680 reviews
The critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling account of how the modern Middle East came into being after World War I, and why it is in upheaval today

In our time the Middle East has proven a battleground of rival religions, ideologies, nationalisms, and dynasties. All of these conflicts, including the hostilities between Arabs and Israelis that have flared yet again,
Paperback, 635 pages
Published 2001 by Owl Books (first published July 1st 1989)
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Jan 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
This is an odd book in many ways. Not least because it is a history of the Middle East that is structured around a major character’s life. Now, you might think that such a life might well be someone who lived in the Middle-East. No chance, really, when you think about it – books written in the West are much more likely to focus on someone also from the West, even when discussing the history of the East… It’s just what we do.

The life chosen was that of Winston Churchill. I'm not trying to say th
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fromkin's thorough and highly exploratory piece on the creation of the modern Middle East is a delight for the armchair historian and academic alike. With clear and well-developed arguments throughout, a plethora of first-hand documentation, and plausible theses, the book moves effectively through its three main tenets and leaves the reader with a better understanding of the situation at the time and in the current political as well as social denouement. Fromkin argues three key points worth exp ...more
Aug 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-history
This book was recommended in the article “A Reporter's Arab Library”, N Y Times Book Review, 30 Oct 2005.

This is an excellent book, but will strike different people differently. People used to reading serious history will find it easy to read – the author's conclusions are clearly stated and supporting evidence easily located. People used to reading novels will find it hard to read – there is a bewildering variety of place names and personalities to keep track of. People who derive a sense of sa
The first two-thirds of the book necessarily deals with diplomacy during the war. "Broken promises" is a central theme in the post-war new order in the Middle East. Fresh off reading Ulrichsen, I could hurry this part. The final 200 pages look at the emergence of each new country up to the general Middle East settlement of 1922.

Did Fromkin, not a historian by trade, rely too much on official sources? How relevant is this book to understand the modern Middle East ? I only qualify to offer an opi
Jill Hutchinson
Oct 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-history
It took me a little longer than I expected to read this rather fascinating book as it slowed down to a crawl toward the end. Most history readers are familiar with the dissection of the Middle East (as well as parts of Europe) as a result of the infamous Versailles Treaty. At the beginning of the war, the Ottoman Empire, caught in the middle of this disruption, was already shaky at best and its own people couldn't decide which side they should take. This was a "empire" that spoke many languages, ...more
Czarny Pies
Oct 19, 2019 rated it really liked it

"A Peace to End all Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East" is a superb work of synthesis history about how British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire and its many components evolved between 1912 and 1922 when the Ottoman Empire was formally dissolved. Fromkin deals with the Turks, Jews, Arabs, Greeks and Armenians to the extent that he indicates what assumptions that the British made about these various groups. His focus is on the territory that covers m
Lewis Weinstein
For those of us seeking to understand the middle east, this is an excellent presentation of how, after WWI, the Brits and French divided the area, created new countries, and set the stage for conflict and disaster. Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Iran, Saudi Arabia ... none of these were on the map in 1914 and all were there in 1922.

Of particular interest to me were the chapters devoted to the quite significant role of Winston Churchill. Fascinating insights into a remarkable person. There wer
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book details the fall of the Ottoman Empire and creation of the modern Middle East. The Ottoman Empire, like most empires built upon rapid acquisition by a warrior people (the conquests of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane are other examples) couldn’t effectively manage (after 500 years of trying) their conquered territory.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Ottoman Empire was collapsing faster than a cheap deck chair beneath a fat man. One of the architects of the new order (circa 1908
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A broad, comprehensive and well-researched history of the Middle East from 1914 to 1922, focusing on the intervention of the great powers.

The narrative is straightforward, well-organized and very readable. Fromkin does a good job in structuring his story around influential players such as Lloyd George, Kitchener, Churchill, Sykes, Lawrence, Feisal, Woodrow Wilson, and Mustafa Kemal, and in telling their stories without losing sight of the big picture. His portrait of Lawrence is pretty evenhand
Dec 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
An interesting history of the machinations that set the stage for the current Middle East. I've read more gripping historical counts, but this is very detailed, and well thought out. It traces the usually (but not always) well-intentioned policies, the brilliant but ill-informed and culturally ignorant politicians, and the unfortunate historical legacy of the Great Game played by the European powers that led to a division of peoples and power in the remains of the Ottoman Empire during and in th ...more
Sarah Finch
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, well-researched examination of how the European allied powers turned the end of World War I into an opportunity to carve up the Middle East to their liking. Primarily focusing on British players such as Churchill, Sykes, and Lawrence, it is nonetheless a book that shows the egos and folly of all sides. Despite being a quarter of a century old, it is a worthy read, and has a brief afterword that touches on the Gulf War and 9/11. Fromkin's dry, almost clinical tone actually serves in ...more
We learn in great detail how the Middle East around the time of World War One looked from the point of view of British diplomats and politicians. It is fascinating to see how such large decisions were made by a very small group of people, each with their own prejudices, although one can never be sure where the prejudices of the author creep into the narrative. But at the end of all this detail, over a rather short period of time, I find it difficult to form a clear picture of what ultimately hap ...more
Mark Singer
Mar 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in modern and middle east history
Recommended to Mark by: gift
I can't emphasize enough how this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand why the Middle East is the way it is today. It's long, densely written, and well worth the effort. This book was given to me as a present on my 30th birthday, and I have read it three times since. ...more
Dec 27, 2009 rated it liked it
What a slog! This book aggravated me on so many levels: the author's inconsistent use of sources to provide context on the Arab and Turkish perspectives, his irresponsible handling of the Zionist/Arab conflict, his irresponsible handling of the Armenian/Ottoman and Greek/Ottoman politics, etc. Moreover, he tries to center the book on Winston Churchill, who I don't find to be a terribly charismatic character... but then he doesn't even have Churchill in the book for the middle 300ish pages. Go fi ...more
Mohammad Ali Abedi
Dec 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Middle East is such a mess. How come a region which such a golden history is such a political unstable chaos in contemporary times. This book was written in 1989, and the author obviously wondered the same thing, and in the three decades since then, not much has been solved.

David Fromkin tries to investigate the root of the causes of all the problems in the Middle East, and he argues that it all goes back to the First World War. Before the World War, the Ottoman Empire apparently controlled
Jul 05, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books I've read, Peace is a thorough account of the events and personalities that shaped the Middle East as a result of World War I.

Taking Winston Churchill as the principle character, the framework upon which the book is built, Fromkin let's us see how momentous policies are made, often with complete ignorance of the true situation of the people inhabiting the lands that will be subject to the policy.

It also reveals how individuals can change the course of history, not only lead
Robert Kroese
Aug 14, 2009 rated it really liked it
A Peace to End All Peace covers the events leading up to what Fromkin calls the "Settlement of 1922," when the political boundaries and institutions that were to predominate in the Middle East for most of the next century took shape. The book details the many factors involved, such as the rise of Zionism, the exaggerated sense of importance to the war effort of both Jews and Arabs that predominated in Europe, and the personal ambitions of the many actors on the stage, from Winston Churchill to S ...more
Jul 29, 2013 rated it did not like it
Churchillian hagiography, Zionist bias, and cherry picked details. The book is informative as a reflection of how Middle Eastern history was (and continues to be) seen by a safely middlebrow American academe and bureaucracy reared within the confines of its 20th century dominance and influence. No wonder the oil and terror wars of the last generation have been so utterly bungled by ignorant elites.
Mayim de Vries
Jan 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone interested in Middle East's fragile security architecture, protracted war involving nearly all states in the region, social and economic crises, and the role of the West. Key to understanding that contemporary problems with the Islamic State are in fact merely a symptom, and not a cause or an essence of current situation. ...more
Dec 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
One of the most insightful and depressing books I've ever read about the Middle East. It explains so much about the grim legacy that lives in on-going conflicts. ...more
Michael Burnam-Fink
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: academic, history, 2018
A Peace to End All Peace is a serious work of scholarship in understanding the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the foundations of the modern Middle East in the aftermath of World War I. It's deeply researched and painstaking in presenting the different views inside the British government. It is also somewhat scattered, difficult to read, and feels like it's missing key parts.

In 1914, it was obvious to all that the Ottoman Empire was on the ropes. Perpetually broke, technologically backwards,
Tony Heyl
Nov 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Reading Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace could very well give you the impression that World War I was the dumbest war ever. Yet at the same time, every miscalculation, every arrogance, every partnership created and dissolved, seems to make sense in terms of the historical actors involved.

Lesson one: Never doubt the human capacity to make very bad decisions.

Lesson two: If you don't learn history, you are doomed to repeat it. And we've been repeating many things.

This book is not about all of Wor
G.d. Brennan
Aug 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
World War I was a profound cataclysm for much of the world. In some places, its effects were merely monumental, but in others, its consequences were so great that we are only now beginning to deal with them. World War I may have changed the face of Europe dramatically, but it completely remade the face of the Middle East. And that remaking has had profound aftereffects--virtually every major problem in that region (from the insurgency in Iraq, to the Israli-Palestinian conflict, to the struggle ...more
Aug 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
A VERY detailed examination of the Middle Eastern theater before, during and after WWI. Fromkin looks at the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the characters and processes that drew up the boundaries of what essentially became the current day Middle East up to the "settlement of 1922." For anyone looks for a non-biased, historical look into the complexities of the Middle East situation, this is a fantastic (though extremely dense) book. The final chapter really brings it home as Fromkin poses the q ...more
Feb 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
If you have the patience to read about 500 pages of dense historical observation and testimony you will find out the reason why there isn't going to be an easy answer to our contemporary problems in the region. You may wind up lamenting everything with a newfound sense of historical fatalism, you may both curse and yearn for the times of empire and colony, but you should come to the conclusion that we can no longer afford to have people without any dilplomatic sense, or idea of realpolitik influ ...more
Aug 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I wanted a book to explain the origins of the current conflict in the Middle East. This was pretty much it. Now I have to move on to a book that goes beyond 1922, but that's not in any way to say Fromkin did not deliver. It does explain how Great Britain and France pretty much muddled things in the area during and after WWI. Oh well, it's obviously more complicated than that. I guess you have to read the book :) ...more
Jan 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who likes history
Shelves: own, non-fiction, history
A perfect example for how a history book should be written. Engaging and educational.
Matt Brady
Jul 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
got lots of thoughts on this but the only one that springs to mind right now is how prince feisal sounds a bit like prince failson. anyway it's real good. ...more
Ron Peters
Nov 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After World War One, the question was, once the Ottoman Empire – the structure that had held the Middle East together for centuries – was destroyed, what would hold things together? Some areas, such as Turkey, Egypt, and Iran, already had long histories as a people with a shared social, cultural, psychological, and emotional identity. But the states that had been cobbled together by Europeans with no regard for, or consultation with, the local inhabitants lacked legitimacy, and so, lacked stabil ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it liked it
Some warnings about this book: first, the author is not a historian and this book was done in the 1980s I believe. It does not have some of the more up-to-date language one might expect (one example is the use of the term native - it seems to have fallen out of use in more recent times due to certain negative connotations). Keep this in mind.

Second, if you are going to read this based solely on shorter summaries, you may not be aware that it’s a very British viewpoint we are receiving. I didn’t
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David Fromkin is a noted author, lawyer, and historian, best known for his historical account on the Middle East, A Peace to End All Peace (1989), in which he recounts the role European powers played between 1914 and 1922 in creating the modern Middle East. The book was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Fromkin has written seven books in total, with ...more

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“Decisions, by all accounts, including those of the participants, were made with little knowledge of, or concern for, the lands and peoples about which and whom the decisions were being made.” 3 likes
“لقد كان عصرا اصطُنِعت فيه بلدانُ الشرق الأوسط وحدودُه في أوروبا؛ فالعراق وما نسميه الآن الأردن- على سبيل المثال- هما اختراعان بريطانيان، والخطوط رُسِمت على خارطة بيضاء من قبل سياسيين بريطانيين بعد الحرب العالمية الأولى، بينما أُنشِئت حدود المملكة العربية السعودية والكويت والعراق من قِبل موظف مدني بريطاني عام 1922. ورَسَمت فرنسا الحدودَ بين المسلمين والمسيحيين في سوريا ولبنان. ورَسَمت روسيا الحدودَ بين المسلمين والمسيحيين في أرمينيا وأذربيجان السوﭬياتة.” 2 likes
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