What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response / Edition 1

What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response / Edition 1

3.8 13
by Bernard Lewis

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ISBN-10: 0195144201

ISBN-13: 9780195144208

Pub. Date: 01/28/2002

Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA

For many centuries, the world of Islam was in the forefront of human achievement—the foremost military and economic power in the world, the leader in the arts and sciences of civilization. Christian Europe, a remote land beyond its northwestern frontier, was seen as an outer darkness of barbarism and unbelief from which there was nothing to learn or to fear.


For many centuries, the world of Islam was in the forefront of human achievement—the foremost military and economic power in the world, the leader in the arts and sciences of civilization. Christian Europe, a remote land beyond its northwestern frontier, was seen as an outer darkness of barbarism and unbelief from which there was nothing to learn or to fear. And then everything changed, as the previously despised West won victory after victory, first in the battlefield and the marketplace, then in almost every aspect of public and even private life.

In this intriguing volume, Bernard Lewis examines the anguished reaction of the Islamic world as it tried to understand why things had changed—how they had been overtaken, overshadowed, and to an increasing extent dominated by the West. Lewis provides a fascinating portrait of a culture in turmoil. He shows how the Middle East turned its attention to understanding European weaponry and military tactics, commerce and industry, government and diplomacy, education and culture. Lewis highlights the striking differences between the Western and Middle Eastern cultures from the 18th to the 20th centuries through thought-provoking comparisons of such things as Christianity and Islam, music and the arts, the position of women, secularism and the civil society, the clock and the calendar.

Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies," Bernard Lewis is one of the West's foremost authorities on Islamic history and culture. In this striking volume, he offers an incisive look at the historical relationship between the Middle East and Europe.

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Oxford University Press, USA
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New Edition
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8.50(w) x 5.60(h) x 0.69(d)
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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 The Lessons of the Battlefield18
Chapter 2 The Quest for Wealth and Power35
Chapter 3 Social and Cultural Barriers64
Chapter 4 Modernization and Social Equality82
Chapter 5 Secularism and the Civil Society96
Chapter 6 Time, Space, and Modernity117
Chapter 7 Aspects of Cultural Change133

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What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Perspective on Islam
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This masterful work explores Islamic Civilization¿s failure to respond to the challenge presented from the fifteenth century onward by an innovating West. It does this in an elegant clear prose that at every point brings insight into this complex confrontation of civilizations. Its sweeping understanding of creative effort in a variety of cultural realms makes the work especially rewarding to the reader. Lewis writes out of a great respect and understanding of the Islamic Civilization and its achievements. He tells what is in a way a kind of exemplary cautionary tale of what can happen to a Civilization that closes in upon itself, and rests upon its laurels. A Civilization that can see no farther than its own centrality loses its way in failing to understand the dynamic Civilization developing along side it. Living as we do in a time when the clash of civilizations has been revived. (The `clash of civilizations ` is a phrase originally coined by Lewis, and later most gainfully employed by Samuel Huntington) the tale gives much pause for thought.. Could the West now be as Europe ages and declines, and as the United States stands alone in facing totalitarian challenges be in for a surprise, if not from Islamic Civilization then from the Sinic Civilization which now seems so remarkably coming alive?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Overall, I thought this was a pretty good book. The only thing I was disappointed with was the fact that Mr. Lewis did not tie in how problems created in the past lead into the situation of the present. This book is certainly worth reading.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This brief book is a re-worked collection of essays by an accomplished scholar of Islam, Turkey and Arabia. Bernard Lewis explores several aspects of the reasons for the eclipse of Islam and the Arabic empire by Western Europeans in the 16th through 20th century. It is not an exhaustive history but a snapshot of some cultural themes. He explores the military changes, cultural influences, scientific issues such as the marking of time and measurement, and the response of the Islamic societies to the European challenge. It was written before the Sept 11 attacks, but has a great deal of relevance to understanding some of the resentment at their origin. Written in an engaging and scholarly style.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Professor Lewis did a fantastic job. This book is an outstanding primer for anyone interested in Middle Eastern and Islam studies within an historical framework as they relate to the West.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have a different take on this book than the reviewers below. As an American who lives overseas in an African country where Muslims comprise a significant segment of the population, I found book to be overly deferential to the various Islamic regimes it discusses. Believe me, in Africa, many ¿ maybe most -- Muslim leaders have been and continue to be aggressive and intolerant of those with whom they disagree. Many of the leaders want to impose sharia law, which is bad enough if you¿re Muslim, but it¿s really bad if you¿re Christian, and in Nigeria where the country is about half and half Christian/Muslim the leaders of several Nigerian states have imposed sharia law. When the Nigerian Supreme Court recently declared this unconstitutional, the political leaders of these states said they¿d ignore the Court! Lewis minimizes the brutality that has characterized much (though not all) of the history of the Islamic world, highlights the failings of the West, and minimizes the contributions of the Europe and the U.S. to humanizing the governments of the non-Western world. He bends over backwards to avoid offending supporters of the Islamic world. That one of the reviewers below thinks this book is too hard on Islam just demonstrates the rigidity of a prevalent type of Islamic thinking that takes offence at the slightest criticism. (I notice he thinks it¿s a good thing that France criminalizes certain forms of academic speech ¿ just like a lot of Muslim regimes. And contrary to what the reviewer below says, Lewis goes out of his way in this book to make a distinction between modernization and Westernization in the Islamic world.) If you want to learn more about the development of Islam, Lewis¿s book will provide you a brief and well written intro, but be forewarned that it significantly understates the pitiful human rights record of Islamic regimes both ancient and modern.
Guest More than 1 year ago
He may or he may not, but it seems very safe to say that he knows a lot more than a certain 'Duke Professor'. The shortcomings of 'What Went Wrong', many of which were lucidly exposed by Hannan, are alarming. They are alarming and considerable grounds for concern as they have Bernard Lewis as their source. For many, like Mr. Anders of Duke, accept without question his rendition of the facts and the conclusions he ultimately draws. Sadly, books like these do little to bridge cultural gaps; it may not be too wide of the mark to say such books widen them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Mr. Hannan, I guess you know more about history then a Princeton professor. Armenian allegations, just like the West's attitude towards Islam is based mainly on propaganda. Somehow Armenians claim 1.5 million Armenians died when less than that many people lived in the country. IN addition, it totally ignores the hundreds of thousands killed by Armenians. Lewis presents a lot of facts about these events, liek it or not. In addition, does it make sense that suddenly Ottomans killed many Armenians after centuries of granting them many liberties? The fault of the many muslim and armenians dead lies in bad Armenian leaders and their Allied provacators.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This newest lecture about Islam, its tenets, and Prof Lewis' assessment of western prospects for reopening dialogue is a spellbinder. President Bush says the American war against terrorism isn't a war against Islamism. Were he to read Prof. Lewis' What Went Wrong, he may conclude that Islamism isn't leaving him many options. While the prognosis is not bright, this is an enormously thoughtful introduction and explanation. The book deserves wide readership. I have bought a dozen copies!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an authoritative and accessible account from the only true living authority on the Middle East, Professor Bernard Lewis. Probably one of his greatest works and stands as a labour of love after decades in pursuit of knowledge about the Middle East and Islam. Suddently, Bin Laden, Sept. 11, Saddam Hussein, Israel-Palestine, minority rights, all make sense with this timely and timeless addition to our understanding of the dynamics behind the terrifying and dizzying headlines today.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am appalled by the amount of factual errors that Lewis includes in his book. If he's really not familiar with the reality of these facts, it's a big disaster. And if he is, it's of course a bigger disaster. Throughout his writings in general, Lewis always blames Muslims for not following great Western values. What an arrogant argument. Who said that values that work for the West will work for the Muslim world? Who said that Western values are 'great' anyways? Who said the West has true democracy and freedom of speech? I don't think this is an argument that can really be made, especially in light of what happened to personal freedoms after 9/11. In What Went Wrong, Lewis arrogantly tells us that to the extent that the Western culture had a chance to impact Islamic societies, it managed to free them from their demons. He illustrates this by telling us that slavery was finally abolished in the Islamic World in 1962 after they could not face the Western world with it anymore. This is a major factual error. Dr. Lewis, it would really surprise me if you did not know that Islam abolished slavery when it was introduced to Arabia in 632 A.D., hundreds of years before slavery was abolished in the United States. This is one reason why Islam is more popular among African Americans. The Quran (the Muslim Holy book) is filled with verses that stress that all people are equal, and the only thing that makes a human 'better' than another is the amount of good or virtue he/she does in his/her life. There was never any slavery in Islam. The Prophet (peace be upon him) and the early Muslims used to struggle to save money, so they can buy slaves and free them (and this is actually one example of the correct use of the word jihad, which is misused all over Western media). Actually at one point in his life, the Prophet married a woman slave that he bought and freed. Islam has actually called the pre-Islamic (and pre-Christian and pre-Jewish) days 'jahiliya' which means 'days of ignorance' because of the wide spread of slavery and worshipping stones, which Islam put an end to. So this is a huge factual error. If you run a simple search on the Internet for 'Islam AND slavery' for example, or if you read books by someone like Karen Armestrong, you will find literally thousands of Webpages and pieces of evidence that confirm my point. I'm really puzzled when 'prominent' scholars publish books about Islam or Arabs or the Middle East with such huge factual errors (and I've only mentioned one example for lack of space). I think they only serve to deepen the misunderstandings and increase the gap between the Muslim world and the West.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'll tell you what went wrong. I was following the instructions on the side of the Rice Crispies box and added one bag of marshmallows. However, what wasn't clear was that the bag needed to be a 12 oz bag. The bag I used was 18 oz. When the Rice Crispies and the melted marshmallows were combined the mix was all wrong. I was stuck with an all too gooey mess. But, I did manage to save it all by adding it to a gallon of chocolate ice cream, then adding some walnuts. But, in order for the Rice Crispies to stay fresh I needed eat it all in one sitting. Now I'm addicted to this mush. Not because I like it so much, but because I'm physiologically depended on the odd mix of ingredients. I'm am now several hundred pounds heavier then I was a year ago. I get out of breath just typing this message.