Regular price: $41.95

Membership details Membership details
  • A 30-day trial plus your first audiobook, free.
  • 1 credit/month after trial – good for any book, any price.
  • Easy exchanges – swap any book you don’t love.
  • Keep your audiobooks, even if you cancel.
  • After your trial, Audible is just $14.95/month.
OR
In Cart

Publisher's Summary

The Middle East is a critically important area of our world. And, with its current prominence in international affairs, media images of the Middle East reach us on a daily basis. Much media coverage, however, is incomplete at best, failing to take account of either the complexities or the historical background of this pivotal region. For most of us, the real story of the Middle East remains untold. What made this crucial geopolitical area what it is today? In coming to terms with the present and future of the Middle East, an understanding of its history is not only highly valuable but essential.

Now, the 36 lectures of Turning Points in Middle Eastern History unfurl a breathtaking panorama of history, exploring a 1,300-year window from the rise of the warrior prophet Muhammad to the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Each lecture focuses on a specific moment that changed the direction of events or the narrative of history.

You'll witness the Battle of Karbala, where Muhammad's heirs - the Sunni and Shia - split once and for all. You'll discover the wonders of the Islamic Golden Age and marvel at the superlative advances in astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and literature - and the preservation of classical Greek and Roman wisdom - that unfolded in global centers of learning such as Baghdad, Cairo, and Cordoba. You'll follow the empire building of the Persian Safavids, the Egyptian Mamluks, and the Ottomans, among others.

The breakup of the Ottoman Empire yielded most of the modern states of the Middle East. The far-reaching impacts of its rise and fall, plus the long-lasting influence of the 18th-century Saud-Wahhab Pact between a desert ruler and a religious reformer, creating today's Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, are two more expressions of how the past suffuses the present. The stories you'll discover here are as dazzling as anything in the Arabian Nights and are all the more astonishing for being true.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2016 The Great Courses (P)2016 The Teaching Company, LLC

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    795
  • 4 Stars
    198
  • 3 Stars
    47
  • 2 Stars
    14
  • 1 Stars
    10

Performance

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    736
  • 4 Stars
    182
  • 3 Stars
    37
  • 2 Stars
    4
  • 1 Stars
    5

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    717
  • 4 Stars
    177
  • 3 Stars
    43
  • 2 Stars
    12
  • 1 Stars
    9
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Closest thing the GC has to a study of Ottomans

Is this worth it? Yes, if you can deal with the arbitrary choices made! ( I certainly can!)

These lectures tread common ground with other great courses up to the rise of the Mamelukes. Then, as a combined Ottoman-Sarafid- Mameluke history, it truly comes to life. Arbitrary, of course, as is the nature of these event compilations (Oman and Libya tend to be wheeled out in passing to make room for more Egypt and Moorish Spain), a clearer idea of what these lectures are about really shines through once we reach the Crusades. The Orient-Occident confrontation as a clash of cultures and how much of this is really baloney! A good overall regional grounding to be listened to on Audible in tandem with (in my humble opinion) Rogan's "fall of the Ottomans" and Anderson's "Lawrence of Arabia". Until a specific series of Great Courses cover the Ottoman Empire (or Mameluke Egypt for that matter), this is the next best thing! I do feel the addition of an Oman-Zanzibar chapter may have added to this but the chap cannot put everything down...



33 of 37 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

As an Israeli, I knew so little about my region.

Would you listen to Turning Points in Middle Eastern History again? Why?

Sure! I'm an Israeli (of Jewish origin), and quit informed and learned (I'm have a PhD), and love learning history. Moreover, I'm a humanist, and do not hate or shun people that are different from me. However, I knew almost nothing of what was taught in the course. In Israel, in the education system, you hardly learn anything about the middle-east in the 1800 years between the end of the Jewish state and Jewish population in the 1-2 centuries AD, and 19 century. Also, in the western TV channels as Discovery, the History Channel, National Geographic etc- there are hardly any programs on the subject. This course is a must for all Israelis and western civilization. To acknowledge that most Arab and Muslim key figures (at least the ones in this course) were much more humanistic and trustworthy than most Christian and Jew key figures in History before the 19th century. People need to appreciate the huge contribution of Arabs and Muslims to the western civilization. Maybe this could reduce the Muslim and Arab phobia today.

What did you like best about this story?

To find out that the first university was founded in Morocco, by a woman!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes!

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Very thorough and informative.

I like how the lectures are disconnected approaching the history from different, yet simultaneous points of view. Instead of one long narrative it constantly reviews events but from the perspective of a different group or time. Helps to solidify the information through repitition without feeling repetitious.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

a lot of explaining about the middle East

well done...might listen again for the things i ay have missed. worth the listen. I knew nothing before... but have a better understanding now.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Worth every second and every cent

I absolutely loved this audiobook/class.

Dr. Gearon is masterful in his presentation of middle eastern history. I will listen to this again sometime!

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Good coverage of ME history

This is a good introduction of the Middle East history. Each episode can be a book or more by itself. Author summaries the main points not all points.
I would recommend it.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Eloquent and Thorough

The speaker is eloquent and well informed. Much enjoyed! I will look for his other works.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent Information. Not perfect.

What did you love best about Turning Points in Middle Eastern History?


Any additional comments?

There is a LOT of information packed into this course. Given that this is an 18 hour course broken down into 36 lectures, we expect a lot of information. But we also don't expect that there is enough time to cover each topic in intimate detail. The course is an overview, and it is an excellent overview.

First, the title does not tell you everything you need to know. Specifically, this course covers turning points in Middle Eastern history from Mohammed and the start of Islam until about 1924. There are a few mentions in the last two lectures that go past 1924, but that's about it. Certainly, there are many, many more turning points in Middle Eastern history that are not covered, including ancient Egypt, Alexander the Great (and Hellenistic Egypt), the Roman Empire, etc. And there are other major turning points that come later, such as the forced creation of Israel by the U.N. Again, the title does not indicate that these very major turning points are not covered because they fall outside of the range of dates this course covers.

Second, you'd do well to have a map to keep track of where each lecture is taking place. While you may have a good idea where many things are, a map really helps to keep tabs on distances. Before the modern age, distance was a major factor in how large an empire could grow, and how difficult a military campaign might be to conduct.

Third, not being a speaker of Arabic, it can be very difficult to keep track of the many names that are coming at you just because the names are unfamiliar. I'll need to give this course a second listen just to pick up some more of the many names that didn't stick on the first listen.

Fourth, the lecturer is quite engaging. There were just a few lectures that seemed to drag, but most were quite engaging. And they got better the further into the course we got.

I recommend this course. I learned a lot from this course that helped put today's Middle East in perspective.

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

What a learning experience!

This is an unbiased account of the significant historical events. Very enlightening. Thanks a lot.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Informative

This is an informative book, describing the world of the Midst East. I particularly liked learning about the different Islamic empires.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • B. S. Mahtani
  • 08-14-16

Interesting and insightful overview of history

Very long but mostly interesting. Reveals how partial history is in terms of class, gender and race to me though these things are in sufficiently covered. It also shows how little we know of the past and how packaged our historical knowledge is with stereotypes - so some gaps filled. This audible book goes a little way to challenge conventional history but ultimately not far enough for me. Hence holding back from 5 stars.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • David Jackson
  • 06-22-16

Unputdownable

An incredibly honest and thorough account of 1400 years of history. As a person who thinks he knows a lot about the history of the middle east i thought it might not be so interesting but I soon realised how limited my knowledge was. I really recommend people to look into this series.

And although the style of the lecturer is sometimes a bit stilted, I came to appreciate his clear and focused narrative. Overall, this was a well spent 18 odd hours.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Amal Al Ali
  • 10-01-17

Astonishing book

Being a Muslim Arab I was astonished by the depth of information that book offered touching on the most important times of the Middle East history including Islamic era. Certainly the book was very enjoyable and informative. Would highly recommend

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Hareth
  • 02-04-17

Informative but not well pronounced

The content of the lectures was good and revealing about middle eastern history, but the speaker mispronounced some Arabic words and ended some of the lectures a bit abruptly for my liking.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Mr.Anas.Nashawi
  • 01-17-17

Great

Absolutely great in all aspects.Its a must for anyone who wishes to understand the Middle East

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 07-27-16

A kind history

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

Yes, it gave a good overview of a long and complicated history.

However in places it was selective in detail which seemed to fit a agenda. A few examples.

Mohammed & the Battle of Badr/Trench/expulsions of Xtians/Expansion throughout Saud - the narration & depiction of these events is all very kind. It doesn't really go into the graphicness of what were essentially militaristic, brutal, ideologically driven conquests. Instead the narrator favourably looks upon the character as being 'sincere' in his 'convictions'. Rather than ever possibly raising the notion or even suggestion that the character MIGHT have been a bit flawed its brushed over.

University founded by Fatima al-Fihri in Fes - This is an interesting example. The author holds this up as a 'this might suprise you about how progressive early Islam was'-moment and on the surface at least this seems completely justified. However I looked into the university in question and it seems that from its inception up until now no women have been permitted to attend the university due to Islamic doctrine. Obviously this point did not fit the narrative.

The selective telling of these stories unfortunately coloured the rest of the audiobook for me. Rather than being able to trust the authors neutrality I was more skeptical throughout the remainder.

This kind of narrative continued throughout the story of the Ottomans. A general comment would be that military battles & the slaughter of rival tribes/states are told as 'tribe X expanded into Y' as though this is something organic and painless. History is quite brutal and I understand it doesnt fit a peaceful narrative but its dishonest to leave out the scale of barbarism.

Final comment would be that post the year 1400-ish the story departs Arabia until the oil-discoveries of 1900s. It's quite a big gap so I will look for further material on what happened during this time.

3 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Roxana
  • 07-26-18

captivating

firstly the voice of the professor is perfect for an audible course. secondly the structure of the course is clear. thirdly it is not just an exposure of the facts, the professor helps you understand the reasons behind every turning point.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anthony
  • 01-14-18

Excellent summary of the history of the Middle East

Definitely worth listening to it. It is comprehensive while not being overly detailed. It enables to have a good understanding of the overall history while opening the door to learning more on the topics that catch your interest

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Neil Green
  • 11-30-17

Excellent history

Very informative and optimistic. The lectures are clear and interesting about important events in history.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Longshot356
  • 11-28-17

Avoid - if you're looking for an unbiased history.

This is a terrible audiobook that the Great Courses should be ashamed of.

As a Great Courses fan I was hoping for an impartial overview of the history of this important region. Instead I got an apologia for Islam. This is not necessarily a bad thing in an age of growing Islamophobia but to pretend this is history is, frankly, dishonest.

My suspicions were first raised at the start of the very first lecture. What did the esteemed professor choose as his first Turning Point? The founding of Ur, perhaps the first city in human history? The reign of Ramses the Great? The law codes of Hammurabi? The invention of the alphabet by the Phoenicians? The Battle of Actium? The crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth? The Jewish revolt and diaspora of AD 70?

No. These are all far too minor to warrant even a passing mention. Instead we start with the birth of Mohammed (or as the narrator consistently calls him, The Prophet - something of a giveaway there). From that point on we get a biased, one sided presentation of the history of Islam. Negative events (such as the genocide of the Banu Qurayza to mention just one) aren't mentioned while great efforts are made to present the Islamic empires as tolerant, rational, peace loving and the forerunners of modernity.

Three examples (from many) off the top of my head...

- One Caliph is credited with the "invention of the fountain pen" - because he asked his vizier to come up with a quill that never needed dipping in ink. No evidence that the vizier ever actually produced anything. Instead merely wishing for it constitutes invention in our esteemed professors mind.

- Our esteemed professor explicitly contrasts the violence after the crusaders' conquest of Jerusalem with the peaceful conquest of the same city by Saladin. This is historically accurate but our guide neglects to mention the convention of the middles ages on the treatment of a besieged city. If it is taken by storm (as in the crusaders case) it is pillaged, if it surrenders (as in Saladin's case) it is treated leniently. Both instances are simply conventional by the standards of the time.

- Our esteemed professor consistently uses the anachronistic term science to describe Islamic theories of the world. These theories were (in the vast majority of cases) based on the study of authorities (particularly Aristotle) not experimental evidence. Islamic natural philosophy was no more science than that of the Scholastics.

I could go on but I think you get the message. If you know nothing of the history of the middle east you might enjoy this as it's clear and narrated in an engaging way. If you already know a little, this audiobook will only infuriate you with it's biased one-sided presentation.

Avoid like the plague.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Brian
  • 09-05-17

good history

Quite enjoyed it, but doesn't cover anything after 2014. Will listen again when I have time.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Curtis
  • 10-03-16

Excellent series of lectures

The narrator was superb , so clear and interesting . It was a great pleasure to listen to it. I hope he does another series of lectures on Middle Eastern history

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Ben
  • 07-14-16

so enjoyable

love it! learning about the middle easts history was amazing and so different from what general perceptions about the middle east and what influences it had on the world had and of what outer influences had on the middle east.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Holly de Jong
  • 03-16-16

So Interesting!

loved every minute of it!
listening a second time!

perfect to listen while commuting to work or walking

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars
  • chris
  • 05-25-17

Came for facts and got opinion

Not without useful information, in fact there is quite a lot of it, however this series plays down significantly islamic brutality and religious war mongering and plays up mongol and christian brutality and strays into regressive feminist gender studies at times.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful