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The Arabs: A Short History

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0895267061
ISBN-10: 0895267063
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Gateway Editions (October 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0895267063
  • ISBN-13: 978-0895267061
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,168,983 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Glenn McDorman on August 6, 2002
Format: Paperback
At just over two hundred pages, this book is the place to start learning Arabic history. Although it is certainly not the most detailed or precise account, its brevity ensures that a novice will not be overwhelmed with strange names and minute details of unfamiliar events.
Hitti's Short History will be quite useful to social studies teachers who want to give their students short articles on Arabic history to read. Each chapter in this book is short enough to serve that purpose. There are also eight nice maps that will help students of all levels develop a better understanding of how Islam changed the world.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Chris on April 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Philip K. Hitti, of Lebanese Christian descent, the father of modern Near Eastern studies in the United States originally published this book in 1943 as a service to U.S. government personel and others whose interest was becoming focused on the Middle East.
He portrays a people who had a very rich civilization, whose rulers were studying ancient Greek philosophy at the same time Charlemagne and his advisors in Europe were tyring to learn to write their names. The Arabs rescued the artistic and philosophical treasures of Ancient Greece and ancient Persia and developed standards in Medicine, biology, philosophy, architecture, agriculture that were unprecedented in their day. These achievements Hitti says spread into Europe through Spain and Sicily and were the major factor in sparking the European rennaisance. I particularly enjoyed his description of Abassid Baghdad at its heighth. Consider his description of the daily schedule of the "man of learning" or the institution of the "ghilman" the "beardless young boys" who .....well I won't get into that.
He describes the conditions of non-slave non-Moslems as equal though varying depending on the degree of liberalism of the reigning Caliph. At times Jews and Christians had to wear special clothing and fix devils to the fronts of their houses and could not testify against Moslems in court. But more than a few of them rose to high positions in government, in scholarship, in bootlegging. The Jewish community in Baghdad was very active and large and its chief Rabbi was treated with veneration.
What caused this relatively glorious civilization to die?
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on July 3, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was first written in the late 1940s and is a product of that time: the Arab world was under colonial occupation and the crisis in the Middle East was only beginning. As such, this book was intended as an introduction of an unknown civilization to an American audience with very little knowledge of the area. It is written at about the high school senior level. Even worse, it is designed to paint a posiive picture, glossing over anything untoward. Moreover, it is an abridgment of a longer work, a sure sign of its lightness.

This book essentially covers the high points of Arab civilization, from just before Muhammed (7C) to the fall of the Mamluks to the Turks in the 15C. The most interesting portion deals with Islam's golden age, when the empire had expanded and the culture was eclectic, ready to absorb everything it could from the occupied peoples. At this time, the Arab caliphate absorbed not just Greco-Roman ideas at the darkest time of the dark ages, but also Persian and Indian influences. The result was a great flowering of a new synthesis, one of the most important ever to emerge.

Unfortunately, Hitti covers this in such a superficial way that I was continually disappointed, to the point of disgust. For example, when discussing the Muslim contributions to science, he notes that they advanced knowledge and invented something close to the scientific method, but somehow failed to take it far enough. He does not explain what he means, but simply states it that way! Even a single example would have helped...Indeed, much of the book is a simple listing of the great men of the time, most of whom the reader will not know, with virtually no explanation of what they did to advance their fields in context.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on October 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I heartily echo the poor reviews others give this book. _The Arabs: a short history_ was first published in 1943; why the publisher felt the need to reprint it is a mystery to me, given not only the changes that have taken place in the region, but most significantly in the scholarship that has been done in the last 60 years. This book has not aged well.

First, its few strengths: Hitti does a solid job of explaining Arabia before Mohammed: the culture, societal organization, and the economic and political ties amongst the Bedouin are among the best I have read. To understand Arabic (and by extension, Islamic) civilization, one must first understand the climate from which it was born. In this vein, Hitti also does a tremendous service by connecting these roots of Arabic culture to the growth and expansion of Islam, and the political trials and tribulations of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates.

Sadly, the portions of the book that I found disfavor with outweigh these bright points. To begin with, I found myself regularly shaking my head at his repeated references to "the Arabic race" - race is an artifical construct (unless one speaks of the "human race") - there is no more an Arabic race than there is an American race or any other group you wish to define in racial terms. (To be clear: I am not being "politically correct" here, but merely stating an anthropological and sociological fact that illustrates the vast difference 60 years makes in examining a topic.
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