_The Arab Uprisings: what everyone needs to know_ is a must-read for anyone interested in gaining an understanding of the "Arab Spring" of 2011. Written in a question-and-answer format, Galvin clearly explains the causes of the revolutions that swept the Arab world, drawing parallels between nations and clarifying the complex interplay of economics, demographics and politics in the political change that is still unfolding.
The book begins with a brief primer on the Arab world - the cultural similarities and the broad economic and political climate of the region before the uprisings began. Galvin then argues that the revolutions were the result of four factors: economic promises made by the regimes to their people that fell apart, a "youth bulge", food crises and political brittleness of their autocracies. While there are some variations, these four themes are revisted as the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya and Syria are explored in detail.
The final chapter, in which Galvin fields questions about the "long view" of the Arab Spring is a bit odd, the questions more along the lines of political science than history. To his credit, Galvin reminds readers that these events are still unfolding, writing, "The moral of the story (of the uprisings) is that historical analogies do not explain and do not instruct, although for historians and history geeks their entertainment value cannot be overestimated." Similar questions about the role and impact of American foreign policy in fomenting the Arab Spring and what the implications of the uprisings are for the United States are similarly swatted away, and rightfully so, I think.
While events are still being played out regarding the effects of the spring of 2011, this is an outstanding primer on the subject - rich in detail and clearly and simply written. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the region or recent events there.