Until the early 1990s - the insistent writings of John Terraine notwithstanding - the campaign in Palestine in 1917 and 1918 was, more often than not, portrayed by historians and military commentators as perhaps the most attractive, significant and viable alternative to the carnage of the Western Front.
Few areas of historical enquiry resonate with such contemporary relevance as the Arab-Israeli conflict, and any scholar attempting a book on the subject is walking into a politically charged minefield. Historians enquiring after the 'truth' are accused of partisan bias: after all, they must either be supporters of Zionism or the Arab cause.
On 13 April 1204 the western or Latin armies participating in the Fourth Crusade conquered Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium. The approaching 800th anniversary of that event has generated renewed interest in the background, context and impact of that crusade, expressed in several new studies and in conferences.
Ottoman histories – better put: histories of the Ottoman state – have some right to be regarded in a pseudo-Braudelian sense as une historiographie du longue durée.
Though in terms of global importance Egypt cannot compare to either China or the Soviet Union, the subjects of other recent works published by Frank Cass in which former senior Israeli officials have chronicled their experiences representing the Jewish state in the diplomatic arena,(1) the importance of Egypt as a ‘pivotal state’ in the Near East cannot be exaggerated.
There is probably no other region in today's world whose domestic and international politics have been more personalised than the Middle East. Not only have absolute leaders dominated the regional political scene for decades, superseding state institutions and personalising the national interest, but quite a few states have been established to satisfy the personal ambitions of local rulers.
The intention of this book is to ‘retell’ the history of the Middle East through ‘the medium of individuals’ (p. 18). But not any individuals, only those in the ‘Middle East kingmaking business’ (p. 158). None of the thirteen men, ten British and three American, and two women, both British, who feature most prominently in this nicely produced volume ‘attained the summit of national power’ (p.
David Cesarani’s stylish book unravels the often sordid details of what might at first seem a relatively minor incident in the decline and collapse of British rule in Palestine.
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