From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East


Bernard Lewis is recognized around the globe as one of the leading authorities on Islam. Hailed as "the world's foremost Islamic scholar" (Wall Street Journal), as "a towering figure among experts on the culture and religion of the Muslim world" (Baltimore Sun), and as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies" (New York Times), Lewis is nothing less than a national treasure, a trusted voice that politicians, journalists, historians, and the general public have all turned to for ...

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From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East : Interpreting the Middle East

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Bernard Lewis is recognized around the globe as one of the leading authorities on Islam. Hailed as "the world's foremost Islamic scholar" (Wall Street Journal), as "a towering figure among experts on the culture and religion of the Muslim world" (Baltimore Sun), and as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies" (New York Times), Lewis is nothing less than a national treasure, a trusted voice that politicians, journalists, historians, and the general public have all turned to for insight into the Middle East.
Now, this revered authority has brought together writings and lectures that he has written over four decades, featuring his reflections on Middle Eastern history and foreign affairs, the Iranian Revolution, the state of Israel, the writing of history, and much more. The essays cover such urgent and compelling topics as "What Saddam Wrought," "Deconstructing Osama and His Evil Appeal," "The Middle East, Westernized Despite Itself," "The Enemies of God," and "Can Islam Be Secularized?" The collection ranges from two English originals of articles published before only in foreign languages, to previously unpublished writings, to his highly regarded essays from publications such as Foreign Affairs and The New York Review of Books. With more than fifty pieces in all, plus a new introduction to the book by Lewis, this is a valuable collection for everyone interested in the Middle East.
Here then is a rich repository of wisdom on one of the key areas of the modern world—a wealth of profound reflections on Middle Eastern history, culture, politics, and current events.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Lewis has long been considered the West's leading interpreter of Mideast culture and history, and this collection only solidifies his reputation. —National Review "Bernard Lewis's 2002 study, What Went Wrong?, shed much welcome, if controversial, light on the divergent courses of Islamic and Western civilization. Now in a new collection of essays, Lewis teases out the implications of his earlier argument in a wide range of settings, from traditional Middle Eastern feasts and rituals to the anti-Western propaganda campaigns of al Qaeda."—Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post "For more than four decades, Lewis has been one of the most respected scholars and prolific writers on the history and politics of the Middle East. In this compilation of more than 50 journal articles and essays, he displays the full range of his eloquence, knowledge, and insight regarding this pivotal and volatile region.—Booklist
Publishers Weekly
As this collection of writings and speeches from the last 40 years demonstrates once again, Lewis is probably the world's most erudite scholar of the Middle East. The pieces cover virtually all aspects of the region from medieval Turkish history to the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and everything in between. Food for thought abounds: In one essay, Lewis notes that Islam and Christianity had different relations to Judaism because while Christianity wanted to replace Judaism, Islam was more comfortable incorporating Judaism into its traditions. The pieces are divided into three sections: past history, present history and reflections on the historical profession as it relates to the Middle East. The essays are more scholarly than Lewis's bestselling What Went Wrong? for instance, one focuses on etymology and the origins of propaganda in early Arabic states. As a whole, they demonstrate Lewis's long-held contention that Islam has been unable to modernize and a clash of civilizations with the West was inevitable. Lewis is considered one of the intellectual architects of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, so it is of interest that in one essay, he asks what the West should do to help bring about change in the Middle East, and answers, "As little as possible." (Confused readers should note that the essay was written in 1957.) As a result of its scholarly bent, this book may attract a narrower audience than his other recent works, but they reflect the thinking of a profound mind. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Foreign Affairs
This collection of 54 articles and reviews appearing over half a century (from 1953 to 2003), plus three pieces never before published, covers a wide range of subjects, arranged under the rubrics "Past History," "Current History," and "About History." This might suggest a grab-bag of random writings fit only for academics. Not so. Almost all are relevant to contemporary concerns. And since Lewis has emerged as a leading molder of U.S. public opinion on Middle Eastern matters (and is generally believed to have influenced Bush administration policies since September 11), there is added interest in tracking this scholar.

It is revealing that Lewis chose not to arrange these writings in chronological order, as if to suggest that his interpretations, if not timeless, at least have a long shelf life. In fact, his writings do reveal a remarkable consistency of thought over the decades. His arguments, ever forceful and subtle (a rare accomplishment in itself), are not easily summarized and are too many to list. Suffice it to note that included here is his famous "The Roots of Muslim Rage," which, when it first appeared in 1990, introduced the watchword "clash of civilizations" later brandished by Samuel Huntington. His several articles in support of the U.S. war of choice against Iraq (and the whole notion of an "axis of evil") reveal a Lewis who is more forceful than subtle.

Library Journal
Historian Lewis (Cleveland E. Dodge Emeritus Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Princeton; What Went Wrong?) has been one of the most prolific modern writers on the Middle East and Islam. Throughout his long career, he has made many of the intricacies of Middle Eastern history and Islamic civilization accessible to a broad audience of informed readers and academics in the West. In this latest book, Lewis offers a panorama of more than 50 previously published writings spanning more than four decades of academic life. Chapters in this volume come from scholarly publications, lectures, popular publications, and newspaper columns. The smorgasbord of topics covered includes medieval Islamic history, European encounters with the people of the Middle East, Pan-Arabism, Islam and the West, Ottoman history, and the contemporary developments in the Middle East and Muslim-Western relations. A very useful collection for both academic and large public libraries, even those that own his other books.-Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195182538
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/1/2005
  • Pages: 456
  • Product dimensions: 8.80 (w) x 5.90 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Lewis

Bernard Lewis is Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies, Emeritus, at Princeton University. His most recent books are The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror and What Went Wrong?, both national bestsellers and the latter a New York Times Notable Book for 2002.

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    1. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 31, 1916
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of London, 1936; Diplome des Etudes Semitiques, University of Paris, 1937; Ph.D., University of London,

Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 An Islamic mosque 15
2 From Babel to Dragomans 18
3 Middle East feasts 33
4 Iran in history 43
5 Palimpsests of Jewish history : Christian, Muslim and secular diaspora 53
6 Some notes on land, money and power in medieval Islam 60
7 An interpretation of Fatimid history 66
8 Propaganda in the pre-modern Middle East : a preliminary classification 79
9 Monarchy in the Middle East 92
10 Religion and murder in the Middle East 100
11 The Mughals and the Ottomans 108
12 Europe and the Turks : the civilization of the Ottoman empire 115
13 Europe and Islam : Muslim perceptions and experience 121
14 Cold war and detente in the sixteenth century 135
15 From pilgrims to tourists : a survey of Middle Eastern travel 137
16 The British mandate for Palestine in historical perspective 152
17 Pan-Arabism 156
18 The emergence of modern Israel 181
19 Orientalist notes on the Soviet-United Arab Republic Treaty of 27 May 1971 188
20 A taxonomy of group hatred 196
21 Islam and the West 205
22 The Middle East, westernized despite itself 221
23 The Middle East in world affairs 232
24 Friends and enemies : reflections after a war 240
25 Return to Cairo 247
26 Middle East at prayer 265
27 At the United Nations 269
28 The anti-Zionist resolution 274
29 Right and left in Lebanon 284
30 The Shi'a 290
31 Islamic revolution 299
32 The enemies of God 313
33 The roots of Muslim rage 319
34 The other Middle East problems 332
35 Did you say "American imperialism"? : power, weakness, and choices in the Middle East 343
36 The law of Islam 351
37 Not everybody hates Saddam 354
38 Mideast states : pawns no longer in imperial games 357
39 What Saddam wrought 360
40 The "sick man" of today coughs closer to home 364
41 Revisiting the paradox of modern Turkey 367
42 We must be clear 369
43 Deconstructing Osama and his evil appeal 371
44 Targeted by a history of hatred 374
45 A time for toppling 378
46 In defense of history 383
47 First-person narrative in the Middle East 396
48 Reflections on Islamic historiography 405
49 The Ottoman archives : a source for European history 414
50 History writing and national revival in Turkey 421
51 On occidentalism and orientalism 430
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The more things change

    the more they remain the same. This old truism is a succinct description of this collection of essays and articles by Bernard Lewis. The collection spans well over half a century of scholarly work of this doyen of Orientalism and Near Eastern studies. It is a fascinating walk through many facets of the rich history of the Middle East, and if you are new to the subject, as I am, it is probably one of the best starting points to the field. Many articles touch upon the subject that are as relevant today as when Lewis first wrote about them, which in many ways is a bit unsettling. I am always a bit skeptical about the use of ancient feuds and disputes as a justification for modern-day conflicts, but if a certain theme persists more or less unchanged for many centuries, then it would be foolish to ignore it. This book can be an invaluable resource to anyone wishing to cast aside those foolishnesses and better understand what is going on in that part of the world. In the example of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Lewis convincingly shows how it was both ancient and modern, fundamentalist and contemporary. It would not do the full historical justice to treat it just in the light of the fundamentalist rhetoric, nor through a prism of contemporary revolutionary rhetoric. Showing the interplay of those two themes is what Lewis excels at, and this book is replete with similar examples.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2004

    A masterwork of scholarship and literature

    This elegantly written collection is in a sense the product of a lifetime of study by one of the world's great scholars. It's broadness of vision, its humane relation to its subjects its deep deep knowledge make it a special treasure. It reads like a great work of literature and continually inspires with its insights. If there is one book published this year that I would recommend to everyone I know it is this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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