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Egypt: A Short History Hardcover – September 27, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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When the Greek historian and traveler Herodotus marveled at the Great Sphinx in the fifth century BCE, it was already nearly 2,000 years old. One of the common themes in this compact history of both ancient and modern Egypt is the sheer antiquity of Egyptian civilization. Tignor is professor of modern and contemporary history emeritus at Princeton University. Given the incredible length of Egyptian history, he has wisely chosen to concentrate on broad themes of continuity and change. He avoids, for the most part, a who-what-where-when chronology, which would have been inappropriate and interminable in a short survey. Still, Tignor does provide interesting profiles and speculations on some seminal figures, including the failed monotheist Akhenaten, the fabled Cleopatra VII, the nationalist leader Mustafa Kamil, and, of course, Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak. The inescapable fact of the Nile as the life-giving force is stressed. It is also notable that Egypt has shown a remarkable ability to endure centuries of foreign invasion and occupation while still maintaining many of the elements of its traditional culture. A superb introduction. --Jay Freeman


"Ambitious in scope, Egypt: A Short History provides an informative and readable account for the interested general reader."--Anthony Gorman, Times Higher Education

"Robert L. Tignor's ambitious Egypt: A Short History stretches from the Predynastic age to the present, tying the various periods together in a continuous 5,000-year narrative to create a lengthy history told in a short book. . . . Tignor writes with an easy, assured style, and his history becomes more focused and more authoritative as it progresses. He tells us it was conceived as an alternative guidebook for discerning tourists wishing to learn about more than just pyramids and pharaohs: as such--as an enjoyable book written by someone who clearly knows and loves Egypt and the Egyptians--it serves its purpose very well."--Financial Times

"[O]ne could not write a better account of Egypt's history--a gift from a master historian at the conclusion of his career."--Henry E. Chambers, Middle East Journal

"A brief look at Egypt's history can help us both understand the making of Egypt and the reasons behind what has already been dubbed Egypt's unfinished revolution."--Lisa Kaaki, Arab News


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 27, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691147639
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691147635
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,225,232 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harry Eagar VINE VOICE on October 2, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The title, unconsciously I think, is funny, but Robert Tignor's book about Egypt gets better as it goes along.

"Egypt" is one of the odder histories I have read, addressed to people who want to travel to Egypt, which is a lot of people: Tourism makes up 10% of Egypt's national income (not counting the giant subsidies American taxpayers provide). The assumption is that they might want to know something about the place, but not too much.

The early chapters are a mishmash of a history that, I suppose, most people know at least a little about; that Egypt is the "gift of the Nile, that Pharaoh Ramses II had a big ego and so on. Tignor understates the technological contributions of the ancient Egyptians, mentioning mathematics and a primitive start toward alphabetic writing, but completely ignoring the material contributions. It is hard to imagine modern life without glass, for example.

He also appears to swallow whole the Old Testament stories about Egypt, although archaeology has found no trace of ancient Israelites in the most archaeology-friendly place on earth.

Tignor is an economic historian of modern Egypt, and as the history reaches the area of his lifetime study -- which happens also to be the period where (I conceive) even educated people tend not to know as much as they do about the more exciting era of pyramids, messiahs (even if imaginary) and tombs full of gold -- it becomes more trenchant.

This is also the part of the book where he inserts a bit of travelogue, handy hints for tourists who do go to Egypt.

However, he seems unconscious that the second half of "Egypt" contradicts a major theme of the first part, that, "It is virtually impossible for conquerors to obliterate the culture of the local population.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book as a primer on Egyptian history since I was to be visiting Cairo for a week this past fall. It more than served its purpose. As I toured the Egyptian museum in Cairo, I was familiar with the different dynastic periods and the major historical figures and events being depicted so I didn't just stare at a museum piece, I could place that piece in a history that gave it meaning. I had a much greater appreciation of the Great Pyramids at Giza, the ancient Coptic churches, and the city of Cairo itself for having read this book. It takes 5,000 years of complex history and makes it accessible to the common reader. Highly recommended.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent overview of Egyptian history by a scholar. Very clear, cohesive and informative. A recommended reading for anyone interested in the development of the country.
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By sandra m on March 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This short work adds little to the already vast literature on ancient Egypt. Why two pages for Who Were The Ancient Egyptians, the most contentious aspect of this country`s history? Whether race mattered to the ancient Egyptians, the race of the ancient Egyptians,evidently, matters to us. Tignor omitted Herodotus' statement in which he likened the Colchians to the Egyptians because both people were black and had woolly hair. Also omitted are the statements of eyewitnesses like Diodorus of Sicily who linked Egyptians to other Africans of the interior.
Tignor doesn't mention forensics, either. Keith W. Crawford wrote of researchers Brauer (1990), Coon (1965), Strouhal (1971), Nutter (1958) to name a few, whose studies indicate the presence of populations with Broad African (negroid) traits throughout the history of ancient Egypt, from predynastic times to the Archaic/Old Kingdom, Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom rulers. Iconography- statues and other representations -corroborate those studies. Cheikh Anta Diop, who devised a method for quantifying the melanin content of the epidermis from dynastic Egyptian mummies, demonstrated the melanin content from the mummies was comparable to the quantity in the skin of present day tropical African populations.
Much that's been written about the "four races of man" paintings in the tombs of Seti I and Ramses III is confusing. And, Tignor adds to that confusion in his book. However, Charles A. Grantham shines light on the matter in BATTLE FOR KEMET. Here, Grantham writes of how he gained access to the tombs and made photographs of "the four races of man" painting.
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