Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterraneanby Philip Mansel
Levant is a book of cities. It describes three former centers of great wealth, pleasure, and freedom—Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut—cities of the Levant region along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. In these key ports at the crossroads of East and West, against all expectations, cosmopolitanism and nationalism flourished simultaneously./i>
Levant is a book of cities. It describes three former centers of great wealth, pleasure, and freedom—Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut—cities of the Levant region along the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. In these key ports at the crossroads of East and West, against all expectations, cosmopolitanism and nationalism flourished simultaneously. People freely switched identities and languages, released from the prisons of religion and nationality. Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived and worshipped as neighbors.
Distinguished historian Philip Mansel is the first to recount the colorful, contradictory histories of Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut in the modern age. He begins in the early days of the French alliance with the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century and continues through the cities' mid-twentieth-century fates: Smyrna burned; Alexandria Egyptianized; Beirut lacerated by civil war.
Mansel looks back to discern what these remarkable Levantine cities were like, how they differed from other cities, why they shone forth as cultural beacons. He also embarks on a quest: to discover whether, as often claimed, these cities were truly cosmopolitan, possessing the elixir of coexistence between Muslims, Christians, and Jews for which the world yearns. Or, below the glittering surface, were they volcanoes waiting to erupt, as the catastrophes of the twentieth century suggest? In the pages of the past, Mansel finds important messages for the fractured world of today.
"I could scarcely put down this magnificent book, with its galloping narrative, its worldly analysis, sparkling anecdotes and its unforgettable cast of the decadent, the cosmopolitan, and the cruel."—Simon Sebag Montefiore, Financial Times
Simon Sebag Montefiore
“This book is a labour of love and finely tuned scholarship, ornamented with such telling social detail and intimate knowledge of the urban and social landscapes that it brings 300 years of history to entertaining life…Philip Mansel slowly makes the reader aware that the grand theme of his history is a slow unfolding tragedy which remains absolutely relevant to today’s multicultural societies, engaged as they are in the delicate balancing act between political unity and cosmopolitan diversity…not only an entertainment and a historical education but also something of a political warning…”—Barnaby Rogerson, Times Literary Supplement
- Yale University Press
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- 6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Meet the Author
Philip Mansel is a historian of France and the Ottoman Empire. His publications include histories of Constantinople and nineteenth-century Paris, as well as biographies of Louis XVIII and the Prince de Ligne.
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