The book comprises a series of scholarly essays and speeches given by Lewis over a period of four decades on the topic of the Middle East and the Islamic world. Quotes from the author[ edit ] What is the historian trying to do? First, on the most rudimentary level, to find out what happened. Then, at a rather more sophisticated level, to find out how it happened.
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Shelves: international-relations , history , social-science Bernard Lewis is one of the most renowned and controversial author on the Middle East and its relations with the rest of the world, more specifically the west. At first glance it would be easy to see why he would be considered controversial. He took controversial stances on the invasion of Iraq and the Armenian Genocide. He was highly sought after by the George W. Bush administration and has been considered a neoconservative.
Additionally, he was Jewish writing about Islamic and Middle Eastern topics. All this is true but seems to take a simplistic view of, much like the topic he choose to study, a much more complex person. Many of the passages were academic in the extreme and connecting the various articles that were written over the course of his entire 50 plus year career to the overall thread of the narrative was not always easy. This, however, is characteristic of the arguments Bernard Lewis makes and the complex and more nuanced stances he takes.
He is just as hard on his own Jewish history, or as he points out, lack of history, and on the short term memory of his adopted homeland America as he is on the historical inclinations of Islamic historiography, Ottoman biographies, and Persian or Iranian historical constructs. I also do not agree with everything his critics say regarding him or this particular book. Taking the longer and more nuanced view of a topic or a personality is not the easiest course and is often not the most popular either.
However, any good critic, student or historian would do well to find the nuance and detail and exploit it. Nuance exploited and detail expanded upon does nothing but increase your credibility and strengthen your argument.
Having studied Middle Eastern, North African, Turkish and Islamic culture more specifically the radical and militant variety over the course of some 15 plus years, the most interesting development with the articles presented in the book were they consistencies and developmental changes in the articles themselves.
His own point of the consistency of cultures to either ignore or misuse history contrast directly with his own review of history and its potential misuse.
Seeing his change in stance on the political spectrum but his overall consistency on the historical -used in the social scientific sense - is fascinating.
This also brings me to my most significant issue with the book. Its actual structure more than its content or tone. The book is divided into three main sections, each of which is constructed by articles previously written and published in various other volumes or academic journals. The articles fall into the three main categories. With the first section, Past History, Lewis deals primarily with historic, meaning preth century or at the very least primarily with events prior to the fall of the Soviet Union.
With these articles Bernard Lewis tries to set the stage for the interactions between the West or European powers and those of the early or Medieval Islam.
He also attempts to place the few events that occur within the 20th century in context to their historic roots. Part Two: Current History, deals with modern, or at least recently modern, events.
Nor do they follow any thematic structure that was readily apparent. This section attempts to cover the nature of history and the study and influence of history and historical study itself. It is here the Bernard Lewis.
From Babel to Dragomans: Interpreting the Middle East