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Middle East History – 5 Books You Must Read

Studying history or reading the history of other people’s, such as Middle East history books, can make us wiser in our public choices and more richly human in our private lives.

Why?

Because reading history books helps us understand people and societies.  Studying history is essential for good citizenship and moral understanding.

So, reading or studying these middle eastern history books will help us in many ways, and perhaps help a little with world peace.

1. A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East – David Fromkin

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The Ottoman Empire is considered one of the greatest regimes in history, spanning over 600 years. Fromkin examines in great depth how events that led to the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1900s and formation of the modern Middle East impacted the entire world. Insightful, thorough and dense in detail, this book is not light reading material. For history buffs with patience, this volume will make you somewhat of an expert on Middle East history.

“Wonderful…No book published in recent years has more lasting relevance to our understanding of the Middle East.” ―Jack Miles, Los Angeles Book Review

2. A History of the Arab Peoples – Albert Hourani

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As the title implies, Hourani’s book is a comprehensive history of the Arab people as a society. There is no focus on wars and mythologized heroes. The book covers developments in economy, arts, literature, urbanization, politics and the various Islamic schools of thought. If you want a better and in depth understanding of Arab identity that transcends media portrayals, A History of Arab People is a wonderful source to get started.

3. From Beirut to Jerusalem – Thomas L Friedman

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Friedman is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist for the New York Times.  He spent 10 years in Beirut and Jerusalem, reporting firsthand the conflict that has been going on in the region. His book offers a detailed look at the various political decisions that influenced the Arab-Israeli conflict. Insightful, enlightening and engaging, Friedman offers a broader explanation and understanding of the sources of conflict and antagonism in the Arab world.

4. Lawrence in Arabia – Scott Anderson

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British Lieutenant T. E. Lawrence was a legend for his liaison role in the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule. Anderson gives a detailed account of Lawrence’s efforts, from when he arrived in the Middle East, his involvement in war efforts, and what he actually contributed. This volume de-mythologizes a historical figure with an objective exploration of his actual accomplishments. The author also examines the lives and careers of other less famous historical figures who had a hand in the outcome of the war.

ED: yes, this is the same individual made famous in the movie Lawrence of Arabia.

5. A Concise History of the Middle East – Arthur Goldschmidt Jr.

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For the uninitiated, Middle East history is long-spanning and complicated.  The authors of A Concise History of the Middle East have done a fantastic job in putting together this easy to read and follow volume. The book traces Middle East history from before the advent of Islam during the medieval era, all the way to turbulent modern times. It is a valuable resource for those seeking to increase their knowledge and understanding of the Middle East.