A highly circumstantial, ebullient narrative study which relies on biographical sketches to carry it from the Suez Canal's inauguration to the Nasser epoch. Not that Stewart is incapable of analysis -- he describes how ""loan capitalism"" led to British occupation of Egypt, and identifies the centrifugal origins of Turkish and Arab nationalism, as well as the variegated sources of Zionism; but his historiography is mediated chiefly through Mideastern rulers and aspirants, plus a scattering of pertinent figures like the Empress Eugenie and Lord Balfour. We learn more about Mustapha Kemal's westernizing passion for hats than about his effort to gain peasant support for his movement, more about T.E. Lawrence's personal deficiencies as a liar and agent of empire than about his precise imperial service, more about Farouk's life-style than about British geopolitical aims during the period. The particulars are intelligently rendered -- this is no mere journalistic scandal sheet -- but Stewart leaves the outlines to emerge for themselves, and moreover the book tapers off with a scrap on the Palestine movements, without serious treatment of Israel. A careful readership will do better to stick with the vast body of more generalized, analytic work from Laqueuer and Howard Sachar to Abdel Malik and Rodinson; compared with Britain, the U.S. has few nonacademic Mideastern buffs, for whom this book seems to be geared.