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International Studies

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Middle East
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Armstrong, Karen. Islam: A Short History. Modern Library Edition. New York: Modern Library, 2000.

A relatively recent book, Armstrong focuses more on the evolution of the Islamic faith than on Islam as a political force. It’s barely two hundred pages, and very readable.


Bloom, Jonathan and Sheila Blair. Islam: A Thousand Years of Faith and Power. New Haven, CT: Yale U P, 2002.

This is a very readable history from the time of Muhammad until the time of the Ottoman Empire. It deals more with the political nature of Islam than Armstrong does. It is the companion book to the PBS series Islam: Empire of Faith, which I haven't seen.


Cleveland, William L. A History of the Modern Middle East. Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.

If you want more in-depth coverage of the same period covered in the Mansfield book, this is it. It's also very useful for his citations and recommendations for further reading.


Cook, Michael. The Koran: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford U P, 2000.

As the title indicates, this is closer to a lengthy pamphlet. You can read it all in a couple of hours and understand the basic mechanics and history of the Qur’an, as well as its role in Islamic societies today. I think I read most of it waiting to pick somebody up from the train.


Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path. New York; Oxford: Oxford U P, 1998

Esposito is a well known Islamic scholar, and addresses the religious beliefs of Muslims. This is a popular book for undergraduate “shopping mall” religion courses, probably because it fits nicely over your face if you should fall asleep reading it.


Mansfield, Peter. A History of the Middle East. New York: Viking, 1991.

People who think that the conflicts in the Middle East are thousands and thousands of years old will be annoyed that this book concentrates on the 19th century forward. Since these people are generally wrong, I can still recommend Mansfield's book, although it stops in 1991. If you really don't want to read more than about 200 pages, this is pretty good.


Antonius, George. The Arab awakening; The Story of the Arab National Movement. New York: Capricorn Books, 1965.

I recommend these books because they’re written by people who actually experienced the times and interacted with many of the key actors. Lawrence is of course Lawrence of Arabia -- and to some degree Antonius is telling the same story as Lawrence from the Arab perspective. Lawrence is longer and Antonius is more dense than the other books I've put here, but I really enjoyed both of them. Read them and then watch the remastered Lawrence of Arabia and marvel at Peter O'Toole's dreamy eyes. Or something.


Fromkin, David. A Peace to end all Peace. New York: Avon Books, 1990.

This is the most readable of the books that deal specifically with this time period -- it covers the negotiations and machinations that led to the formation of the Middle East as we know it today.


Bickerton, Ian J. and Carla L. Klausner. A Concise History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict. 4th Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2002.

This book is interesting because each chapter ends with copies of the relevant documents to that period – The Balfour Declaration, UN Resolution 242, etc. It is a little on the expensive side, so check your couch cushions for change.


Richards, Dai and Norma Percy and others. The 50 Years War Israel and the Arabs. Virginia: PBS Home Video, 1998.

Hey! A movie! I really like this series produced by PBS, and just in case you don't want to read a really long book, check this out.


Smith, Charles D. Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1988.

Yes, yes, this book is really long. Here's the problem: if you're going to write on this topic, the conventional wisdom is that the conflict is so complicated that only robotic Carl Sagan clones with Cray supercomputers for brains could understand it, so you have to make it long or people won't take you seriously. And you have to (or should!) well document every claim you make. Otherwise, some college kid trying to find a cause to care about will flame you for your extreme bias. Of course, since they're going to do that anyway, I say you just enjoy yourself. Unfortunately, I don't know Charles Smith personally to pass on my advice.


Farouk-Sluglett, Marion and Peter Sluglett. Iraq since 1958: From Revolution to Dictatorship. New York, NY: Metheuen, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1987.

I've only read parts of this well regarded book, but given it's more limited scope, it does a better job of covering the coups that occurred in Iraq and the rise of Ba'ath party and Saddam. I still think Marr is more readable, and it is helpful to understand the role of the British in forming modern Iraqi identity, which isn't explored by this book's scope.


Marr, Phebe. The Modern History of Iraq. Boulder Colo: Longman, 1985.

This is really "the" book on modern Iraq. It's very readable and Marr does a good job of presenting the overarching themes as well as a chronological presentation of the major events in Iraq's modern history. The first edition of this book was out of date and out of print for years, but now we have the 2nd edition with a chapter entitled "Whoopsie! The US and Iraq 1990-2003"


Tripp, Charles. A History of Iraq. Cambridge: Cambridge U P, 2000.

This book is shorter, but somewhat denser than Marr's. It tends to be more of a blow by blow of the history of Iraq. All the names do eventually get confusing, especially as governments fall and elections are held every 1/2 hour in Iraq from the 1920's until 1958. As a nerd, I must point out that Tripp seems to have used fewer primary sources than the other two books, as he cites both of them. This probably matters to no one.


Bill, James A. The Eagle and the Lion: The Tragedy of American-Iranian Relations. New Haven: Yale U P, 1988

I’m not sure what it says about me, but this is one of my favorite books of all time. In a very straightforward way, the author traces the relationship between the two countries over the last century or so. The book is full of fun anecdotes and oddball details (a leader’s persistent runny nose, an itemized list of gifts given by the Shah to American media personalities, etc.). Admittedly, in the second part of the book, Bill spins a dubious conspiracy theory about Henry Kissinger and Chase Manhattan Bank, but given the bizarre nature of our relationship with the Shah, it might be true.

F E A T U R E   R E S O U R C E S
Middle East
This is where you can find all resources that relate to the Middle East.

The British Museum; Mesopotamia
This site is an excellent way to explore the wonders of Ancient Mesopotamia. It includes highlights from the Assyrian empire and the cities of Babylon and Sumer, with a variety of photos and interactive maps.

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