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.
This review was developed from a discussion on the occasion of the launch of the book, hosted by the 'Rethinking Modern Europe’ seminar in which both author and reviewer participated, together with Professor Benjamin Fortna (University of Arizona).
This is a curate’s egg book, good in parts but distinctly not in others.
It was more than 30 years ago when Albert Hourani pointed to the common Ottoman lineages of the Arab political elite active in the inter-war Middle East. ‘They had been at school together in Istanbul’, he noted.
In recent decades historians, postcolonial theorists and feminist scholars have demonstrated how, in a variety of geographical settings, gendered stereotypes supported the conquest and domination of overseas territories by European colonial regimes.