This book is one of the least informative texts I have ever read on Middle East history. It is full of unsupported (and unsupportable) opinions/assertions instead of stating the facts. It ignores so many events in Islamic history that would inevitably reveal Islam and its rulers in a negative way that it must certainly be intentional. The authors fail to mention many of the troubling actions of Muhammed (assassinations, political intolerance, banditry, etc), avoids discussing the intolerance of Muslim rulers such as Hakim who destroyed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, avoids discussing the mass slaughter of Hindus in India, and the list goes on. It also provides an unnecessarily biased account of European imperialism which blames Europe for everything yet portrays Arabic and Turkish imperialism, which was arguably far more intolerant and harmful to the occupied lands than Arabs and others under Europeans, as something wonderful. This is a totally biased whitewash of Middle East history and was worse than a waste of time as it is actually counterproductive to any effort at understanding the history of the region. If my children brought this book home from school as a textbook, I would have to speak to the school to have the text changed or remove my child from the class. If you want a book about the Middle East that, although biased in favor of Islam and the Arabs, actually provides sufficient information about the region that you can glean some understanding, get History of the Arab Peoples by Hourani or any of the books by Bernard Lewis who is far more objective and honest both about the history of Islam, Arabs and especially the Turks.
The message of the book is highly biased and the authors make no effort to hide their fringe left-wing agenda. Be it the selection of facts, the depictions of historic personalities or the overall tone of the story, its _very_ pro-Arab, especially when it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict, and "anti-imperialist" (the West is always there to blame for everything bad that has ever happened in the Middle East) and pro-socialist elsewhere. Quick summary: everything Israeli/British/French/American = bad and greedy, Arab=good or at least well-intended.
In short, if you are looking for truth - please look elsewhere. The "history" as relayed in this book has never existed except in Arab nationalists' and, well, a few Western professors' minds.
This should be retitled: "A Rambling Editorial on the Greatness of Islam, the Evil of Zionist Demon Dogs, and How American Imperialist Swine Get What They Deserve." I'll try to be more clear. There is no discussion of ancient history of the Middle East. This "history" begins with Mohammed. For the first 14 of the 18 hours of runtime the authors at least maintain the facade of serious historians, however as the issues become more contemporary the semblence of objectivity evaporates. The last hour and a half of the text is an open editorial, decrying Israeli "war crimes", abusive American foreign policy, and open pleas for Barack Obama to save the Middle East from the evil policies of lying Neo-Con Cowboys. The authors have no shame about expressing their own political opinions rather than presenting the facts so the audience may decide. Save your cash, this is no history, and it is no deal.
This history of the Mideast is indeed concise and to the point. It is generally a good introduction to the subject but flawed.
The book reads like a textbook for high school, rather than college level. As a textbook it suffers by arguing with previous, unnamed historians about interpretations of certain events. Without any referent, these arguments add little to the narrative. The textbook style also interrupts the narrative, so the audiobook does not flow as well as other narrative histories.
The authors mar the overalll subject by maintaining a multiculturalist view of the Mideast. While Islam and Arabs did indeed produce marvelous science, mathematics, and philosophy, the authors continually extoll these over the accomplishments of Western Civilization. This bias isn't merely a matter of viewpoint, but a conscious effort on the part of the authors to denigrate the accomplishments of the West in favor of those from the Mideast. This presentation, especially when dealing with current politics, turns a blind side to real understanding of contemporary events.
Tom Weiner's reading of the book is excellent and the audio recording is of high quality. I would recommend this book as a supplement to understanding the Mideast, but not as a first book or introduction to the subject.
The first 90% of the history of Islam and the Middle East seemed unbiased. It reminded me of European history with one dynasty after another and just as difficult to remember or more so than all the European Kings and Queens and changes in boundaries. There was lots of good information of more modern history in the late 1800's then World War I and World War II. But the closer the story got to the current times, the more left leaning the story got as evidenced by a portrayal of recent Democratic U.S. presidents in a positive light and Republican Presidents negatively. I guess I'm glad it was so blatantly left leaning by the end because I do want to hear both sides. So now I'll look for a book on the other side.
This is an excellent overview on a history of the middle east. Let me highlight its strengths and then explain any of its limitations or my reservations.
This is a very thorough overview of the history of the middle east. It was written by two authors. The authors make a strong effort to be fair to all parties involved in their discussions. The book covers a history of the middle east from the 7th century to 2009 (which stops just short of the very recent Arab Spring Movement). It also devotes much material to the modern middle east and thoroughly covers its biggest concerns, including the Arab-Israeli conflict. They make a concerted effort to highlight some of the primary roots and causes of the turmoil in the middle east today. The performer does a fine job and the book will be interesting to those who are interested and don't mind a history style (as opposed to "story style") book.
Now for a few notes on and limitations of the book. The book really only covers middle east history from the rise of Islam in the 7th century to the present day though it does provide some background to these events. Also, the authors' chosen definition of and focus on the middle east generally leaves out North Africa w(ith the exception of Egypt), the central asian states, and Pakistan except when the material is relevant. I would also say the history is Muslim and Arab centered. While this group, as the dominant group for the past millennium, deserves the bulk of the book, I was a bit disappointed since other cultural, religious, and ethnic minorities are important to the history of the middle east. They made up the majority in many countries until the year 1000 and still constitute important minorities today. They were not left out completely, but I don't feel they got the attention they deserve. Also, while the authors' do attempt to be fair and scholarly and let readers make their own decisions about events, I believe most readers will find that they lean more towards supporting the Arabs in the Arab Israeli conflict and that they are not in favor of some of the policies of the recent Bush administration and the war on terror. Some of course will and will not appreciate this perspective, but I still think they do a good job covering the major events regardless of your perspective. These limitations made me give the book a 4 rather than a 5.
Overall this is an excellent overview and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in the topic, keeping in mind some of the limitations listed above. I learned a great deal and it is an excellent resource for anyone looking to better understand the history of this important region of the world and the roots of modern day events, conflicts, and issues. Enjoy!!!
Who would enjoy it more? People who want to continue to see history with a thick veil over their eyes. People too narrow-minded, too fearful, and too lazy and unimaginative to think outside of the left-right box of American politics. People who think they are getting news by watching CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. People who continue to think that there is much of value left in college liberal arts courses.
Contortionists Goldschmidt and Davidson bend over backwards to gloss over the anti-reason, bloodshed, racism, and misogyny inherent in Islam to deliver what is, in fact, a textbook example of the cultural whitewashing of Islam that has been going on for decades but has been virulently prevalent in the US since 9/11. No, I'm no particular fan of socialist, mystical, cynical Israel, except that, by contrast to other Mideast societies, Israel allows her people a relative degree of freedom and appreciates reason, science, individualism, and free commerce to some limited extent. Truly balanced history would describe in detail -- not in vague, airy gloss -- what the real concrete ideas of Islam mean in real terms, on a daily basis, for the people who must live in subjugation under it. The analysis is laughably shallow, so let this be a warning regarding the quality of even the basic facts relayed. This is textbook history at its worst, an agenda in sheep's clothing. It's pretty darned boring to boot.
Pleasantly deep. Monotonous and droning. Needing of more inflection.
Many passages bordered on reasonably interesting "summary history." These were small lifeboats drowning in the sea of agenda, however.
Not worth the time. If you are a student, break out of your chains and seek answers and facts that are in accord with reality. You don't have to believe what they tell you just because self-anointed experts say the same lies over and over ....
Did you know that the US actually had political dealings with the Middle East before 9/11? Do you need a five minute explanation on what exactly the word "history" means? Do you have such a narrow view on Arabic human beings that you need to be told that Arabs were most certainly NOT barbarians? Do you know that the Middle East has a rich history of art and culture? Do you know what algebra is? Are you aware that the Crusades were really kinda bad?
Oh, you're a functional adult who doesn't need to be spoken to like a fourth grader? Than this book isn't for you.
I'm not even one third through and I'm furious. This is a college level textbook? This is how textbook writers communicate to adults? This speaks a lot about higher education's view on their students' intelligence. I don't need to be told that camels actually DON'T carry water in their humps, contrary to what I read in last week's Sunday comics while my mom cut the crust off my peanut butter sandwich. And because I'm older than ten, I'm well aware than the US has had diplomatic relations with several Mideast countries for decades.
The actual history provided in the book was consistent. That is the descriptions of who did what and when, and the varying views of what motivated these act.
As the book gets closer to the present day, he adds his opinion as to the validity of those motives. In reviewing history through reading several authors, the reader should form his own opinion.
Having read several accounts of Middle Eastern history, I strongly disagree with the opinions that the author expresses in the last 50 - 75 years of this particular rendition. He seems to approach the overruning of Persia, Mesopotamia, and the Fertile Crescent by the Arabian Muslims, the Mongols, and the Turks without any comment or oppinion. But when it comes to the comparatively peaceful influences of the British, French and Americans he expresses an excessively negative view.
You might find a more balanced version of the last 100 years in another book, "Destiny Disrupted", by an Afgan born Muslem named Tamim Ansary. At least Mr. Ansary has enough respect for his readers to leave out the opinion.
If I were selecting text books, Mr. Ansay would certainly be my choice. We should be teaching our students "how", not "what" to think.
The story was fine. The opinion should be left out of a History text.