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A History of the Arab Peoples

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Praise for the first edition
“A splendid achievement … Written with just the right mix of empathy and sensitivity, and a feel for the irony of human history. This is history in the grand style. It can lead to a better understanding of the Arabs, past and present.”
—L. Carl Brown, New York Times Book Review
“Here at last is a genuinely readable, genuinely responsive history of the Arabs.”
—Edward W. Said, Los Angeles Times Book Review
Upon its publication in 1991, Albert Hourani’s masterwork was hailed as the definitive story of Arab civilization, and became both a bestseller and an instant classic. In a panoramic view encompassing twelve centuries of Arab history and culture, Hourani brilliantly illuminated the people and events that have fundamentally shaped the Arab world.
Now this seminal book is available in an expanded second edition. Noted Islamic scholar Malise Ruthven brings the story up to date from the mid-1980s, including such events as the Gulf War; civil unrest in Algeria; the change of leadership in Syria, Morocco, and Jordan; and the aftermath of the events of September 11, 2001.
The terrorist attacks in the United States, ongoing crisis in Iraq, and renewed violence between Israelis and Palestinians all underscore the need for a balanced and well-informed understanding of the Arab world, and make this insightful history of the Arab peoples more important than ever.

Encyclopedic and panoramic in its scope, this fascinating work chronicles the rich spiritual, political, and cultural institutions of Arab history through 13 centuries.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Hourani examines Arabic-speaking nations of the Islamic world from the seventh century to the present in a volume that spent 12 weeks on PW 's bestseller list and was a History Book Club main selection. Illustrated. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Hourani (Emeritus Fellow, St. Anthony's College, Oxford) is the author of several well-known books on the Middle East, including Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age (Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1983) and The Emergence of the Modern Middle East (Univ. of California Pr., 1980). This work, the first full-scale single-volume history of the Arabic-speaking peoples of the Islamic world in several decades, begins with Islam's rise in the 7th century and carries the rich and imposing story of Arab civilization to the late 1980s. In broad, sweeping strokes, Hourani moves easily from mosque to marketplace, from sultan to imam , from nomad to city-dweller, from Mohammed to Sadat. He dwells on the Ottoman Empire and on the European colonialism that followed, and concludes with a discussion of the modern resurgence of Islam that offers hope to thousands of Muslims and appears so threatening to Westerners. Written by a master historian, this work is now the definitive study of the Arab peoples. Recommended for interested laypersons and scholars; required reading for all specialists.-- Roger B. Beck, Eastern Illinois Univ., Charleston
An account of the culture and institutions of Islam, from the time of Mohammed until 1988 (end of the Iran-Iraq war). Considers literature, science, religion, the caliphate, national governments, relations with Europeans, and such internal tensions as poverty, the place of women, and the Palestinian question. More useful as a narrative than a reference for specific information. A remarkable bargain. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
From Barnes & Noble
An Oxford professor chronicles the epic saga of Arab culture and civilization, from the birth and spread of Islam in the seventh century and the rise and fall of the Ottoman Empire to the struggles against European colonizers and emergence of modern Arab nation-states.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786108596
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/2011
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 15 Cassettes
  • Pages: 15
  • Product dimensions: 6.68 (w) x 9.24 (h) x 2.38 (d)

Meet the Author

Albert Hourani was Emeritus Fellow, St. Antony's College, Oxford. He died in 1993.

Malise Ruthven is a former editor with the BBC Arabic Service and World Service in London and is the author of Islam in the World and Islam: A Very Short Introduction.

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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Note on Spelling
Note on Dates
Prologue 1
Pt. I The Making of a World (Seventh-Tenth Century)
1 A New Power in an Old World 7
2 The Formation of an Empire 22
3 The Formation of a Society 38
4 The Articulation of Islam 59
Pt. II Arab Muslim Societies (Eleventh-Fifteenth Century)
5 The Arab Muslim World 83
6 The Countryside 98
7 The Life of Cities 109
8 Cities and Their Rulers 130
9 Ways of Islam 147
10 The Culture of the 'Ulama 158
11 Divergent Paths of Thought 172
12 The Culture of Courts and People 189
Pt. III The Ottoman Age (Sixteenth-Eighteenth Century)
13 The Ottoman Empire 209
14 Ottoman Societies 231
15 The Changing Balance of Power in the Eighteenth Century 249
Pt. IV The Age of European Empires (1800-1939)
16 European Power and Reforming Governments (1800-1860) 265
17 European Empires and Dominant Elites (1860-1914) 279
18 The Culture of Imperialism and Reform 299
19 The Climax of European Power (1914-1939) 315
20 Changing Ways of Life and Thought (1914-1939) 333
Pt. V The Age of Nation-States (since 1939)
21 The End of the Empires (1939-1962) 353
22 Changing Societies (1940s and 1950s) 373
23 National Culture (1940s and 1950s) 389
24 The Climax of Arabism (1950s and 1960s) 401
25 Arab Unity and Disunity (since 1967) 416
26 A Disturbance of Spirits (since 1967) 434
Afterword 2002 459
Maps 473
Tables 497
Notes 508
Bibliography 514
Index of Terms 544
Index 547
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2008

    If you are interisted, buy it.

    very thoughtfull analysis of the history of the region. It covers complicated ground in a very readible manner. Buy it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2003

    Interesting and concise

    This is a concise introduction to the history of the Arab people. It is fairly easy to read, yet comprehensive; interesting, yet dispassionate. Albert Hourani does an excellent job presenting an overall picture of Arab history and society. I particularly enjoyed how this book considers history as more than a mere collection of events and dates or the conquests of kings. Rather, for every historical period, it attempts to paint a picture of the lives of ordinary people. Thus we learn about education, religion, law, marriage, and other aspects of society. This is a major strength of the book. Naturally, in a book about Arab history, a great deal of emphasis is put on Islamic religion, which is perhaps the most potent force shaping Arab history and culture. In a way therefore this book also offers an excellent introduction to Islam and Islamic history. Nevertheless, I would have liked to see more material about pre-Islamic times. Furthermore, while the title ¿Arab peoples¿ acknowledges the fact that most of the modern-day ¿Arabs¿ are descended from non-Arabs who at some point adopted Arab language and culture, this point is not made explicit in the text, and the pre-Arab history of these peoples is ignored. Having said that, I admit that it is impossible to include any more information about Arab history in the same number of pages (500), making this book a definite accomplishment. It is an excellent and readable introduction to Arab history, and a lead to other more specialized books (listed in the 27-page bibliography). The index alone reads like a who¿s who in Arab history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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