The Arabs: A History

The Arabs: A History



The Arabs: A History

            Award-winning historian, Eugene Rogan illustrates extensively about the Arab experience in its critical historical context in his book, The Arabs: a History. This is the first Arabian text that has ever been written that traces its history, five centuries back. His work is based on Arab texts and sources in providing full proof writing. The most important point in that Rogan reveals in his book is that there is a specific period when the Arabs controlled the world. He then goes ahead to illustrate how they lost power as the years progressed. According to Reagan’s writing, Arabs lost power because they were subjected to external powers that resulted to huge consequences for both the Westerners who tried to control the Arabs and the region itself. Reliable and readable, this book is a survey that stabilizes the unity of rational story with due concentration in detail.  

            At the introductory stages of the book, the author states that the modern history of Middle East illustrates that if for instance a free and fair elections were to be held in the world today, the Arabs would win it easily. Moreover, at the end of his book, he states that the convenient truth is that for any party to win elections at such trying times, they have to embrace hostile approaches towards the United States of America (Rogan, 2009). However, the Arabian resentment towards the Westerners is because of the humiliation and socially damaging effects they suffered under their control. This is the main reason that fuelled the spread of Islamism and terrorism cases in the world. In order to illustrate this scenario, Rogan illustrates the Arabia history and disappointments since the sixteenth century.

            Before the Ottoman Empire was conquered, the Arab provinces ruled over the lands and their power could be felt in the neighboring countries. However, their history took an ultimate disappointment and change at the beginning of the sixteenth century and this went through to the eighteenth century. During this period, their provinces were under the rule of tyrannical local kleptocrats. Rogan’s narrative illustrates how the Arabian history went through these three centuries that have been marked the most disappointing transition period. He unfolds the experiences and provides details of the growing acquaintance of the Arabs with their Circassian and Turkish masters together with the introduction of European technology and manners into the nation. Commercial links with the European masters was also expanded during this period. At the beginning of the 20th century, the spread of telegraphy and railways facilitated the Ottoman grip over the Arab provinces (Rogan, 2009).

            However, to the Arabian advantage, the Turkeys lost the First World War because of the vague promises they had been given by British politicians and pronouncements from Woodrow Wilson who was the president of the United States of America. The Turkish downfall resulted to rising hope among the Arabian pan-nationalists. Conversely, their joy was only short lived when the victorious French and British nations carved in the Arabian lands. This was a great disappointment to the nation but during the late 50s and mid 60s when they two nations regime over the Middle East ended. The achievement of the local Arabian nationalism in Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia was coupled with several disappointments. This was because their pan-Arab dream had to be abandoned. They also faced defeat against the Palestinian army in 1948, which was most evident (Rogan, 2009).

            Rogan continues to illustrate how Algeria had achieved its independence, which was marked with a bloody war that had taken place (Rogan, 2009). The Arabian nation tried to form a United Arab Republic but they were defeated. This is marked by the attempts made by Syria and Egypt. Moreover, Nasser’s intervention in the civil war in Yemen bore no fruits. In fact, all the regimes that the Arabian nationalist came up with failed to deliver good results. Due to this reason, the nationalists’ regimes employed methods what were more regressive and in turn inspired the rest of the nation. This made the nation to have more belief in Islamist groups and most especially the Muslim brotherhood.

            A major part of the book is based on quotations from witnesses who gave the accounts that took place during this transition period. The first quotation is from Budayri who had recorded a conversation of a barbershop gossip. During the 18th century Aleppo, the barber diarist illustrated how the historian Jabarti had observed in Cairo. In 1978, Bonaparte’s army arrived in Cairo. He explains how they conducted scientific experiments with the hope of gaining interest from the religious scholars in the region. In addition, the author explains Jabarti’s narration of how the scholars were not impressed by the work of the Bonaparte’s with a heavy admixture of skepticism. He even gave an example of a sarcastic statement made by one f the scholars when he told the Bonaparte if he could make him be in Morocco and Egypt at the same time (Rogan, 2009). Bonaparte’s failure to do so resulted to the Egyptian scholars’ conclusion that the French sorcery was not as powerful as perceived.

The author explains of a second account by Rifa’a al-Tahtawi’s that gives details of how the Egyptians reacted towards the French customs and manners in the 19th century. His account gave a revolutionary view through the example of how he wondered the men in French families were obligated to their wives, which is contrary to families in the Arab countries. Moreover, Faisal’s-imposed artificial king of the Iraq nation by the British in 1921-statements that are present of the book seemed more of an early warning to the western countries to be ready for terrorism. He states that the Iraq people were only but a group of people who were connected by their religious believes and a common evil tie that makes them prone and ready to rise against the government at any given time(Rogan, 2009).. Afterwards, Sayyid Qutb statement against Islamic immorality in the Baby it is cold outside lyrics. The Egyptian boulevardier and litterateur’ statement shows opposition of the western influence and the Nasser regime.

            The French and British did not succeed fully in westernizing Arabian countries. This is because the colonial powers received opposition from the Arabs in the Middle East. They also subjected the Arabs to severe punishments because they knew they had not succeeded in the Middle East region. The author went on to explain how the Arabs suffered under the rule of the British who had taken over the overpowered Ottoman Empire in 1918 at Iraq (Rogan, 2009). The British were deceitful because they imposed brutal force of arms that were hostile on the Kurds and the Arabs instead of fulfilling their promise of a national self-determination government. In nations such as Syria, Morocco and Algeria, the French treated the nationalities with more brutality and colonial arrogance.

            Terrorism strategies by the Arabs can work because they have tried it in the past. In the 1940s, the leader of Irgun and Lehi raised terrorism campaigns against the British during the war with Nazi, Germany in Palestine. The campaigns made by Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were joined by Haganah in 1945 (Rogan, 2009). During this operation, ninety-one people were killed and the King David Hotel was blown up by the terrorists. Such mayhem made the British loose the confidence they had in securing the Arab nations. Eventually, in 1948, they retreated from the Palestine war because they knew they had no mandate over the conflict. The Palestine Arabs were then left to fight with the much organized and better-armed Jews. Rogan illustrates that in the war that followed the Jews faced a hostile confrontation with the Arabs.   


            The message that is most evident in the book is that there is a possibility of terrorism to occur at any given time. The Arabs pose a threat to the western countries because they believe it is a way of revenging what they faced in the early years. Eugene Rogan gives a definitive account of the Arab history in order to discredit the notion that people and most especially the Americans have about Islamic nations. Moreover, the book demystifies the idea that the Arab world is a distant battleground, characterized by political and zealotry chaos. The author tries to prove that the Arabs had power before the invasion of the westerners. This is because after the incursion of the Ottoman Empire, the Arabs lost their power and they were subjected to oppression. The account of the details of Arab history is made with the help of quotations from necessary sources.  


Rogan, E. L. (2009). The Arabs: A history. New York: Basic Books.

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