If one looks today at a satellite image of Manama (1), the capital city of Bahrain, the picture of the extended urban conurbation which covers both the north of the main island and the little island which faces it (Muharraq, the former capital of the emirate in the 19th century) is rather different from the ‘Islands of Paradise’ featured in the Sumerian Gilgamesh epic
A stigma around the ill-defined genre of popular history lingers in the academy.
Eli Rubin has written a wonderful book that does not just tell a fascinating story about an important but much neglected subject, but also manages to link this story to much broader historiographical, and indeed ontological, questions about the intersections between space, on one hand, and power, time and lived experience on the other.
‘Risen from the ruins and facing the future’ affirmed Johannes Becher’s emphatic opening strophe to the national anthem of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), composed in that state’s birthyear of 1949. It was a stirring message, and one that amply reflected the political imperative that had come to suffuse the material task of reconstruction after six years of devastating war.