The key to understanding the Arab world today is unlocking its past.
In this authoritative account, John McHugo takes the reader through the political, social and intellectual history of the Arabs from the Roman Empire right up to the present day. Going beyond the headlines, he describes in vivid detail a series of key turning points in Arab history – from the mission of the Prophet Muhammad and the expansion of Islam to the region’s interaction with Western ideas and the rise of Islamism.
Now fully updated to cover the tumultuous years since the Arab Spring, this lucidly told history reveals how the Arab world came to have its present form and illuminates the choices that lie ahead.
About the Author
After studying Arabic and Islamic studies at Oxford University and the American University in Cairo in the early 1970s, John McHugo’s career as an international lawyer took him to a number of Arab countries including Egypt, Oman and Bahrain over a period of more than a quarter of a century. He is an honorary Senior Fellow at the Centre for Syrian Studies at St Andrews, and a board member of the Council for Arab-British Understanding and the British Egyptian Society. He has also written on legal aspects of the Arab-Israeli dispute and advised Tim Farron, when he was leader of the Liberal Democrats, on Palestinian issues. His publications include A Concise History of Sunnis and Shi‘is, A Concise History of the Arabs and Syria: A Recent History.
‘A lucid and highly readable history of the Arab peoples up to the present day. John McHugo has managed to show, with compassion, a good deal of humour and unerring historical judgment, the power of the ideas and the forces that have shaped what we now think of as the Arab world. In doing so, McHugo has provided a way of understanding this complex and ongoing story that will enlighten all who read it.’
Charles Tripp, author of The Power and the People: Paths of Resistance in the Middle East
‘This is a concise historical survey of Arab history from the early Islamic period to our day, including Western-Arab and Western-Muslim encounters ... A well-written, original and stimulating introduction to the Arab world.’
Gilbert Achcar, author of The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives
‘This concise, brilliant and erudite book is the product of wide reading, hard thinking and years of direct experience of the Middle East. The author, an international lawyer and Arabist, has managed to throw fresh light on 1,400 years of Arab history from the Prophet Muhammad to the Arab Spring. There are lively and informative insights on almost every page.’
Patrick Seale, author of Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East
‘Timely … McHugo succeeds in producing a clear and elegant of the sweep of Arab history from the birth of Muhammad to the military coup that overthrew the government of Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi. ... The value of McHugo's book is enhanced by the richness of its references and fullness of its bibliography.’
Susannah Tarbush, The Tanjara
‘Thrilling and poignant, woven with a layered texture of knowledge and empathy that deftly stitches familiar figures into the narrative in a fresh way.’
David Gardner, International Affairs Editor, Financial Times
‘Highly readable … Ideal for novices, it is also a useful and exciting read for those who have read much about the area but never had the whole story summed up in a single volume.’
'[An] elegant work of history. It is an introductory history for newcomers to the field, but it still manages to take up some of the most significant debates without making them banal. This combination makes this book one of the more recommendable introductions to Arab history.'
Journal of Peace Research
‘… a valuable and rewarding work … highly recommended’
Bulletin of the British Foundation for the Study of Arabia