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A Concise History of the Middle East

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A Concise History of the Middle East

Westview Press,

15 min read
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What's inside?

The cradle of civilization was never peaceful. Problems that festered in the Middle East for centuries remain unresolved.

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Editorial Rating



At more than 500 pages, this textbook is not exactly "concise," as might be expected given the panoramic scope of its topic. Arthur Goldschmidt Jr. and Lawrence Davidson ambitiously try to explain the factors driving Islamic culture and its influence on Western civilization, right down to the glossary and chronology. Their main focus is the impact of Islam on Arab history. Once they reach modern times, the authors’ strong views shape their explanations, sometimes pushing the book toward commentary rather than history. Some readers may find that their interpretations can be partisan (anti-Bush, pro-Palestinian, accusing the U.S. of terrorism), but such continuing controversies are inherent in Middle East history. As the authors correctly point out, today’s society offers no solutions to many of these critical issues, most of which have festered for centuries. To draw the most from its strengths, getAbstract recommends this major sourcebook primarily to those who are interested in premodern Middle East history.


”The Land of the Seven Seas”

The Middle East is the geographical link between Euro-Asia and Africa. It sits on the major water routes linking the Mediterranean, Black Sea, Bosphorous, Sea of Marmara, the Dardanelles, the Aegean, the Sinai Peninsula and the Nile Delta, which explains why it is called the land of the seven seas. As a shipping crossroads since 3000 BCE, when camels were domesticated for overland commerce, the Middle East has been the target of innumerable conquests from outside invaders. Throughout recorded history, it has attracted caravans of traders bearing both goods and ideas.

By the time Rome fell in 476 BCE, its power had already moved into the eastern Mediterranean. That shift propelled earlier civilizations to major advancements, ranging from water management techniques to Egyptian engineering to the first code of law advanced by the Mesopotamians. The Jews refined monotheism, thus setting the theological base for Christianity and Islam. Many Middle Easterners adopted Roman and Greek laws, which they later carried into Western civilizations. The light-worshipping religion of Zoroastrianism developed in Persia (then Iran and Iraq), which rivaled...

About the Authors

Arthur Goldschmidt Jr. is professor emeritus of Middle East history at Pennsylvania State University. He wrote Modern Egypt: Foundation of a Nation-State. Lawrence Davidson teaches history at West Chester University. He is the author of several books, including America’s Palestine and Islamic Fundamentalism.

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