A Concise History of the Arabs

From a leading scholar, a sweeping, accessible history of a key region that provides vital context for understanding the contemporary Middle East

“This concise, brilliant and erudite book is the product of wide reading, hard thinking and years of direct experience of the Middle East. . . . There are lively and informative insights on almost every page.” —Patrick Seale, author of Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East

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From Algeria and Libya to Egypt and Syria, the Arab world commands Western headlines, even as its complex politics and cultures elude the grasp of most Western readers and commentators.

Perhaps no other region is so closely linked to contemporary U.S. foreign policy, and nowhere else does the unfolding of events have such significant consequences for America.

A Concise History of the Arabs argues that the key to understanding the Arab world today—and in the years ahead—is unlocking its past. In a sweeping and fluent account, noted scholar John McHugo narrates a journey through the political, social, and intellectual history of the Arabs from the Roman Empire right up to the present day. Taking readers beyond the headlines, he describes in vivid detail a series of turning points in Arab history—from the mission of the Prophet Muhammad and the expansion of Islam to the region’s interaction with Western ideas and the rise of Islamism. This lucidly told history reveals how the Arab world came to have its present form, why change was inevitable, and a spectrum of possibilities following the Arab Spring.

At a time of radical change throughout the Arab world, here is a highly informed and accessible account—the perfect entry point for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of what has come and what lies ahead.

Praise

“This concise, brilliant and erudite book is the product of wide reading, hard thinking and years of direct experience of the Middle East. . . . There are lively and informative insights on almost every page.”
—Patrick Seale, author of Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East
“A lucid and highly readable history of the Arab peoples up to the present day. . . . McHugo has provided a way of understanding this complex and ongoing story that will enlighten all who read it.”
—Charles Tripp, author of The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East
“Vivid and engaging . . . invaluable for those seeking to understand the depth and complexity of the contemporary issues in the Arab world.”
—Joy Gordon, author of Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions
“Purposeful, insightful and tremendously useful, complete with an excellent bibliographic essay.”
Kirkus Reviews
“Even those who are familiar with the story of the Arabs will find this new history thrilling and poignant, woven with a layered texture of knowledge and empathy that deftly stitches familiar figures into the narrative in a fresh way. It is no small feat to compress the fourteen centuries from the dawn of Islam to the new Arab Awakening into such an effortless read.”
—David Gardner, international affairs editor, Financial Times, and author of Last Chance: The Middle East in the Balance
“This is a concise historical survey of Arab history from the early Islamic period to our day, including Western-Arab and Western-Muslim encounters. . . . A well-written, original and stimulating introduction to the Arab world.”
—Gilbert Achcar, author of The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives

Books by John McHugo

Syria
A History of the Last Hundred Years

John McHugo