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A History of the Arab Peoples [Paperback]

by Albert Hourani
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 1, 1992 0446393924 978-0446393928 (13th printing)
Encyclopedic and panoramic in its scope, this fascinating work chronicles the rich spiritual, political, and cultural institutions of Arab history through 13 centuries.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hourani examines Arabic-speaking nations of the Islamic world from the seventh century to the present in a volume that spent 12 weeks on PW 's bestseller list and was a History Book Club main selection. Illustrated.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Hourani (Emeritus Fellow, St. Anthony's College, Oxford) is the author of several well-known books on the Middle East, including Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age (Cambridge Univ. Pr., 1983) and The Emergence of the Modern Middle East (Univ. of California Pr., 1980). This work, the first full-scale single-volume history of the Arabic-speaking peoples of the Islamic world in several decades, begins with Islam's rise in the 7th century and carries the rich and imposing story of Arab civilization to the late 1980s. In broad, sweeping strokes, Hourani moves easily from mosque to marketplace, from sultan to imam , from nomad to city-dweller, from Mohammed to Sadat. He dwells on the Ottoman Empire and on the European colonialism that followed, and concludes with a discussion of the modern resurgence of Islam that offers hope to thousands of Muslims and appears so threatening to Westerners. Written by a master historian, this work is now the definitive study of the Arab peoples. Recommended for interested laypersons and scholars; required reading for all specialists.
- Roger B. Beck, Eastern Illinois Univ., Charleston
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 551 pages
  • Publisher: Warner Books; (13th printing) edition (April 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446393924
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446393928
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #466,466 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a history of the people September 1, 2004
By H. Yang
When Hourani titled his book, "History of the Arab Peoples," he was being honest and literal--- the book is literally a history of the peoples, including the development of their interpretations of Islam, the formation of various schools of thought on the Islamic law and how literally it was to be interpreted, the conflict between secularism and fundamentalism and nationalism in the post-imperial period.

This is not a book about wars, nations, or heroes: the Crusades are barely mentioned, Salah-al-Din gets scant mention, as do Timur, the Mongols, or other great conquerors mythologized in Western poetry and children's stories. Rather, this is a book about society, about urbanization, about economic migration, about the development of political and national consciousness, about the development of literatures, about the use of colloquial versus classical Arabic in poetry, about the rise of Ottoman bureaucracies, and the basis of their legitimacy and power.

In short, this book is a history of the peoples: what shaped their intellectual development, the history of their cultures, etc. I think this is the right emphasis, because the political history (at least for the past 100 years) was mostly imposed by outsiders and is therefore (in my opinion) superficial, and is still in a state of fast flux and definition (e.g. what will be the political outcome in Iraq?), whereas a study of the core Arab / Islamic identity seems to be a more solid foundation from which one can attempt to understand the political structures that have been built. Put another way, Hourani's book will never go out of date, whereas a book that attempted more to explain the current politics of the Middle East would only survive as long as the next treaty or revolution.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done July 18, 2005
By Munir
Although I'm not an expert in Arab history per se, I am something of a student of Islamic religious sciences- which is incidentally a huge chunk of the Arab intellectual tradition (along with philosophy). Hourani masterfully covers the three basic disciplines- sharia (law, jurisprudence), kalam (theology), and Sufism (mysticism, spirituality)- and traces their development historically, frequently quoting primary sources. It is certainly one of the best, most comprehensive treatments I have come across. In regards to some reviewers faulting Hourani for not devoting enough space to Prophet Muhammad- I believe Hourani made a wise choice; he basically limited his treatment to what everyone can agree on, which I think is appropriate since this is a book on Arab and not Islamic history. However, it is indeed sometimes difficult to separate Arab from Islamic history; Imam al Ghazali, a key figure in this book and a towering figure in Islamic scholasticism, was actually a Persian, while Saladin, the most famous Muslim leader during the Crusades, was of Kurdish background. Indeed, one could even argue that the Arabs had a relatively limited political/economic role in Islamic history after 900 AD. compared to the Persians and Turks.
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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only book with such a broad scope. August 15, 2003
By A. Dodd
To those who say this is a boring book, or there isn't any history I laugh. This is the most complete chronicle of Arab History to date. Boring? yes if you're used to reading your history in the tabloids. The book covers thirteen centuries of history in 458 pages. It starts in the seventh century, introducing the Arab world at its first critical turning point: the coming of the Prophet Muhammad. Before the Prophet the people lived in a state of jahiliyya (or ignorance of religious truth).
After giving a good background on the Prophet the book moves swiftly to describe the Arab world after his death. He does this in such a way as to include sociology, politics, religion (of course), culture, war, alliances, and literature. No other author can claim such a comprehensive outlook on the situation as Hourani.
Next his analysis takes the same broad scope on the Ottoman age and discusses the last, great empire of the Arab world (although they are not Arab). He discusses how the Arab people responded to these outside rulers and finally how the Ottoman empire responded to the growing power of the European empires.
He goes on to discuss how the European empires controlled the Arab world, how they fought over the land and trade routes, and how the Arab world responded to this. He discusses how education was very much Europeanized (especially in the Magrib, or northern Africa, where Arab culture did not affect the culture as much from the beginning).
In the last part he discusses the age of nations and the conflicts which aroused from having been colonized (not in the sense you would think however, instead of purely blaming the colonizers he merely shows how this created great differences in the culture and political and religious ideals of the people).
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102 of 132 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Trying................. November 18, 2001
By nto62
I finish most books in a week. Even the most punishing efforts I can conclude within a fortnight. Hourani's History of the Arab Peoples took me two months. This extended duration was not caused by any inability to fully understand it's content, but for the simple fact that I continually avoided picking it up.
The unconscionable tragedy of September 11th inspired me to select this book from my shelf, purchased long before, to learn something more of the lands and events from which the terrorists sprung. History of the Arab Peoples is, in actuality, two books. The first half of the work deals not so much with the Arab peoples, but with the institution of Islam. Arab Christians and Jews receive short shrift as do any major historical event by Western reckoning. You will find scant reference of the Crusades, of Jerusalem, of colonial strife. Instead, we learn not what the Arab Peoples did, but the boundary of Islam within which they did it. Truly, the first 250+ pages would be better entitled A History of Islam.
The latter half of the book consists mainly of the 19th century forward and it is here that Hourani finally uncouples, to whatever extent possible, the Arab peoples from Islam. Though he pays scant attention to events and prefers mainly to discuss socio-economic factors, the book manages to vault from mind numbing to something passably interesting.
All things considered, I didn't enjoy this book. Still, my disappointment stems not from what the book is, but rather from what the book is not. It is not a History of the Arab Peoples - a true history would predate Muhammad - but an in depth tour of Islam followed closely by a treatise on modern-day Arabic society. Do not read this book if a narrative Arabic history is what you seek.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars a good book
This is a good details the diverse histories and culture of Arab peoples and their relationships with other ethnic groups
Published 18 hours ago by Kevin Todd Clepps
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit tedious to read
Good overall information, but probably better aimed at history students than the general public. It is not easy to read
Published 11 months ago by George Benaroya
4.0 out of 5 stars Good introduction
Contrary to what the title suggests, this is not a complete history of the Arab peoples. Even so, for a Westerner, this was a valuable and useful book insofar as it provided... Read more
Published 11 months ago by TruxtonSpangler
3.0 out of 5 stars Hard finish reading
Although the author states that it is a history of the Arabs and not Muslims or Islam, the first part of the book is about the history of Islam and its traditions. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Eric Mascarin Perigault
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Very interesting book but long, I had been checking it out of the local library and renewing... than looked on Amazon. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Robin
3.0 out of 5 stars Good story, bad writing.
This book really isn't that good. What is good is the story. The book is worth reading because it tells a fascinating story, the history of the Arabs. Read more
Published on June 25, 2011 by Xman Zeenoph
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent overview
It took me a while to get through this book as it is quite dense. But it was well worth the effort. It provides an excellent overview of the history of the arab peoples up through... Read more
Published on April 10, 2011 by Jennifer Hancock
3.0 out of 5 stars Torture most of the time
I was disappointed in this book for many reasons. As has been pointed out, the book's title is misleading. Read more
Published on October 27, 2010 by krebsman
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic: A Must Read
Albert Hourani's meticulously woven and mellifluously written narrative about the Arab peoples, their history and culture, is a must read for anyone who pretends to be speaking... Read more
Published on June 17, 2010 by Dr. Samia Costandi
4.0 out of 5 stars “Excellent as a history of the Arab Muslims”
This book is excellent for what it is: a history of the Arab Muslim peoples. Its major flaw is its title. Read more
Published on March 21, 2010 by John M. Balouziyeh
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