A satisfying, uncluttered account that makes a welcome addition to the shelf of books on the Middle East.




Succinct overview of 12 people who have exerted significant influence on the fortunes of the Middle East since England invaded Egypt in 1882.

World Policy Journal editor emeritus Meyer and former CBS News producer Brysac (co-authors, Tournament of Shadows: The Great Game and the Race for Empire in Central Asia, 1999) dedicate a chapter each to individuals ranging from historical icons (Lawrence of Arabia) to current-day politicians (Paul Wolfowitz). They begin by profiling Evelyn Baring, Egypt’s unpopular British consul-general from 1883 to 1907, unaffectionately dubbed “The Great Bear” by his charges. Accounts of explorer Frederick Lugard, risk-taking diplomatic advisor Sir Mark Sykes and the former British civil commissioner for Baghdad, Arnold Wilson, follow. The book concludes with brief histories of former CIA operative Miles Copeland Jr. and Wolfowitz. Even with well-known subjects like Lawrence, Copeland and Wolfowitz, the authors keep things relatively fresh by spotlighting the key elements in familiar stories. Meyer and Brysac often draw links between historical events and current developments in the region. The passage on Wilson, for example, details an Iraqi insurgency that rose against the British in 1920 and unearths some eerie parallels with the 2006 uprising against the Allied forces. Similarly, they note that the Hashemite dynasty and the Baghdad Archaeological Museum, both established by Gertrude Bell, were destroyed many years after her death by (respectively) Saddam Hussein and the military invasion of Iraq. The authors close with an empathetic summary of the views expressed by present-day Iranians, neatly encapsulating the feelings of many Middle East citizens for America.

A satisfying, uncluttered account that makes a welcome addition to the shelf of books on the Middle East.

Pub Date: June 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-393-06199-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2008

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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