A History of the Last Hundred Years

The essential backdrop to the ongoing Syrian crisis, covering one hundred years of Syrian history, from the Great War to the Civil War

“A fluent introduction to Syria’s recent past, this book provides the backstory to the country’s collapse into brutal civil conflict.” —Andrew Arsan, St. John’s College, University of Cambridge

The collapse of Syria into civil war over the past two years has spawned a regional crisis whose reverberations grow louder with each passing month. What are the root causes of the historic upheaval in Syria? In this timely account, John McHugo seeks to contextualize the headlines by providing broad historical perspective and a richly layered analysis of a country few in the United States know or understand.

McHugo charts the history of Syria from World War I to the tumultuous present, examining the country’s thwarted attempts at independence, the French policies that sowed the seeds of internal strife, and the fragility of its foundations as a nation. He then turns to more recent events: religious and sectarian tensions that have riven Syria, the pressures of the Cold War and the Arab-Israeli conflict, and two generations of rule by the Assads.

The result is a fresh and rigorous narrative that explains both the creation and unraveling of the current regime and the roots of the broader Middle East conflict. As the Syrian civil war threatens to draw the U.S. military once again into the Middle East, here is a rare and authoritative guide to a complex nation that demands our attention.


“McHugo uncovers uncanny parallels between the pacification strategies of the French in the 1920s and the Bashar al-Assad regime today, exposing the continuous role of violence in the region’s (flawed) state formation.”
—Raymond Hinnebusch, director of the Centre for Syrian Studies, University of St. Andrews
“John McHugo’s Syria is an engagingly written primer on the contemporary history of Syria that is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the roots of that country’s ongoing agony. His last chapter, in which he dissects sectarianism in Syria and the possible outcomes of the civil war, should be required reading for all who mistakenly believe that tribalism and primordial hatreds are the key drivers of Middle Eastern politics.”
—James L. Gelvin, author of The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know and The Modern Middle East: A History
“McHugo’s book is a most welcome addition to the growing body of literature on Syria. The author expertly weaves the repercussions of a century of regional and international interference in Syrian affairs into his narrative of cause and effect regarding the tumultuous events of recent years.”
—David W. Lesch, Ewing Halsell Distinguished Professor of Middle East History, Trinity University, and author of Syria: The Fall of the House of Assad

News and Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly reviews Syria

Kirkus Reviews

Kirkus calls Syria a "Sober-minded history of a nation that has existed in its present form for less than a century."

Books by John McHugo

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