909: The Arabs by Eugene Rogan

by Gerard


909.04927: Rogan, Eugene. The Arabs: A History. New York: Basic Books, 2009. 497 pp. ISBN 978-0-465-07100-5.

Dewey Breakdown:

  • 900: History and Geography
  • 909: General works of world history
  • 909.04: History with respect to ethnics and national groups
  • +927: Arab and Maltese peoples

Eugene Rogan’s history of the Arabs is all at once expansive, exhausting, and exhilarating. It’s not easy to take a group of people whose history stretches back more than a millennium and package it for the general reading public. His history starts with the clash between Ottoman Sultan Selim I and Mamluk Sultan Qansuh in the early 16th century. Selim I emerged victorious and integrated Syria, Egypt, and most of the Arabian Peninsula into the Ottoman Empire. From there, we go to Egypt and outward to North Africa, then to the Middle East empires, and finally into Arab nationalism and the modern political situation. Over half the book is given to history after World War II, with modern events getting more thorough coverage. The Arabs is a sweeping book and helps the reader better understand their place in the world and how it got there in the first place. Rogan tries desperately to be a dispassionate observer, but in some situations, he cannot help but show a little bias. In many ways, this says more about the historian than the history, but the book is written well and covers a lot of territory, and so I enjoyed it just the same.