9780674005419 / 0674005414

Empires of the Sand: The Struggle for Mastery in the Middle East, 1789-1923


Publisher:Harvard University Press



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About the book:

Empires of the Sand presents the diplomatic and military history of the Middle East, beginning with France's Egyptian campaigns during which Napoleon startled Europe by claiming to have converted to Islam. The conventional wisdom has been that during the 19th century, the Great Powers of Europe actively sought the dismemberment of the region's preeminent power, the Ottoman Empire, finally using its alliance with Germany during the First World War as an excuse to carve it up into artificial entities and thus sow the seeds for the Middle East's problems today. This is not how London-based historians Efraim and Inari Karsh approach their subject. They see a constant interplay of interests and intrigue, with pressures from regional forces, such as the Hashemites, as the main impetus for the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. When they needed support and protection, local states and rulers didn't hesitate to call on infidels they had previously vilified. The West played similar diplomatic games, for example, preventing Bulgaria from taking Istanbul in 1912 for fear of upsetting the overall European balance of power. In the Crimean War of 1854, France and Britain actually went to war with Russia to defend Turkish interests. Though it is fashionable for relations between the Christian West and Islamic Middle East to be presented in terms of a "clash of civilizations," the well-researched analysis of Empires of the Sand convincingly reinterprets the turbulent diplomacy of this endlessly fascinating region. --John Stevenson

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