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The critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling account of how the modern Middle East came into being after World War I, and why it is in upheaval today In our time the Middle East has proven a battleground of rival religions, ideologies, nationalisms, and dynasties. All of these conflicts, including the hostilities between Arabs and Israelis that have flared yet again, The critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling account of how the modern Middle East came into being after World War I, and why it is in upheaval today In our time the Middle East has proven a battleground of rival religions, ideologies, nationalisms, and dynasties. All of these conflicts, including the hostilities between Arabs and Israelis that have flared yet again, come down, in a sense, to the extent to which the Middle East will continue to live with its political inheritance: the arrangements, unities, and divisions imposed upon the region by the Allies after the First World War. In A Peace to End All Peace, David Fromkin reveals how and why the Allies came to remake the geography and politics of the Middle East, drawing lines on an empty map that eventually became the new countries of Iraq, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon. Focusing on the formative years of 1914 to 1922, when all-even an alliance between Arab nationalism and Zionism-seemed possible he raises questions about what might have been done differently, and answers questions about why things were done as they were. The current battle for a Palestinian homeland has its roots in these events of 85 years ago.


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The critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling account of how the modern Middle East came into being after World War I, and why it is in upheaval today In our time the Middle East has proven a battleground of rival religions, ideologies, nationalisms, and dynasties. All of these conflicts, including the hostilities between Arabs and Israelis that have flared yet again, The critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling account of how the modern Middle East came into being after World War I, and why it is in upheaval today In our time the Middle East has proven a battleground of rival religions, ideologies, nationalisms, and dynasties. All of these conflicts, including the hostilities between Arabs and Israelis that have flared yet again, come down, in a sense, to the extent to which the Middle East will continue to live with its political inheritance: the arrangements, unities, and divisions imposed upon the region by the Allies after the First World War. In A Peace to End All Peace, David Fromkin reveals how and why the Allies came to remake the geography and politics of the Middle East, drawing lines on an empty map that eventually became the new countries of Iraq, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon. Focusing on the formative years of 1914 to 1922, when all-even an alliance between Arab nationalism and Zionism-seemed possible he raises questions about what might have been done differently, and answers questions about why things were done as they were. The current battle for a Palestinian homeland has its roots in these events of 85 years ago.

30 review for A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and The Creation of the Modern Middle East

  1. 4 out of 5

    Trevor

    This is an odd book in many ways. Not least because it is a history of the Middle East that is structured around a major character’s life. Now, you might think that such a life might well be someone who lived in the Middle-East. No chance, really, when you think about it – books written in the West are much more likely to focus on someone also from the West, even when discussing the history of the East… It’s just what we do. The life chosen was that of Winston Churchill. I'm not trying to say th This is an odd book in many ways. Not least because it is a history of the Middle East that is structured around a major character’s life. Now, you might think that such a life might well be someone who lived in the Middle-East. No chance, really, when you think about it – books written in the West are much more likely to focus on someone also from the West, even when discussing the history of the East… It’s just what we do. The life chosen was that of Winston Churchill. I'm not trying to say that Churchill wasn't an important figure in the history of the Middle East at and around the time of the First World War. Anything but. However, for a book whose subtitle is ‘the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of the Modern Middle East' it wouldn't be outrageous to expect that the author might have focused more on someone other than an English politician. This book is really about the British Government's role in mucking about in the Middle East during and shortly after the First World War. As such, it is very comprehensive – well, you know, says someone who is not all that aware of much of this history - and so it might not be nearly as comprehensive or as accurate as l think. Still, he gives lots of examples from documents, conversations, letters, diary entries and so on. All this adds to an interesting account of many of the sorts of events (and so on) that we've all heard something about over the years - however vague or knowledge. The problem is how British centred this is. You don’t really get nearly enough of a perspective even from other European nations involved in all this, you know, from say-Germany or France in this long story of the fall of the Ottoman Empire. Given Germany was an allay in the war, you might think more of their relationship and the key players involved in that might have made it into this book - but for every page on that there would have been 20 on British politicians. It is not that you hear nothing about the interests and manoeuvres of other powers in the region. Clearly, they had interests and parts to play, but we often only hear of those to the extent that they relate to the British interests and actors. So, while you come away from this with a fairly detailed understanding of Lloyd George's feelings concerning the likely problems associated with the future of the Middle East after the war, you don't get anything like the same detail of anyone else's opinion from any other nation, other than perhaps Stalin's. But even this is hardly something you could really compare. You do get endless detail on the motivations and reasoning of the British but pretty well only the basic actions of everyone else. T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia fame) gets a bit of a kicking here. Not only are we told most of what we know of him from the famous film is basically rubbish, but he comes across as mostly a liar and self-serving fool. Churchill, however, is the hero of the hour, but one that is overall misunderstood or even the fall-guy for the mistakes of others. Again, this might well be an accurate assessment of him and his role-during this phase of his political career, I don't really know, but this book had the smell of hagiography about it. Let me give one example of what I had hoped this book would give me and why I ended up feeling that it didn’t give me nearly what I wanted. A case in point is around the Zionist movement and the relationship it had with the local Palestinians. A long time ago a friend of mine from Lebanon told me the Palestinians couldn't really complain about Israel, as they had sold so much their own land to the Jews it is hard to know what else they could really have expected? This is something mentioned in this book too. So, I was hoping that I would get some idea of just how significant this sell-off of Palestinian land to the Jews might have been. I was hoping to get some perspective of what it might have amounted to. Clearly, land was sold-but how much was sold? As a proportion of the total land area of Palestine-was it perhaps ten per cent? Twenty? Or was it perhaps not a lot of the land, per se, but strategically important land? None of these questions are answered. It seems some land was definitely sold, but how much and what this all amounted to politically or economically or geographically is harder to say. You see my point? Was it enough to justify the Palestinians no longer having a claim to their homeland? What is presented here is enough to make you think, as my friend had said, that they had it coming. But I still don't really know. Zionism plays a very large part in this book – both as something coming out of the British government’s position given the Balfour Declaration, but also from Churchill’s idea that Jews were likely to fall into 3 categories: those that took an interest in the local politics of the country where they lived, those that wanted a Jewish homeland, or those that supported the Soviet Union. Since the two main options were Zionist or Communism, Churchill supported the Zionists as a way to encourage the Jews away from Marxism. I would have liked more information on the overall implications of all this, but since Churchill is presented as a bit of a saint, it is hard to know if his perspective on even this theme might be considered wise, foolish or somewhere in between. The problem I have with this book, then, is that I sort of don’t trust what I'm reading, even if I'm left unsure. Because the book is so strongly focused on the English, it is hard to know the motivations of any of the other players. Other countries are presented as inconveniences to English policy, which is too often presented as if it was something other than fundamentally self-serving. I would have liked more of the perspective of the Ottomans, Turks, Iraqis, Persians...you know, Middle Easterners – and while there was some of this, it all felt like it was far too little. A book written from inside the Ottoman empire looking out would have been a book about what the title of this book implied. One written from within Whitehall, not so much.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Fromkin's thorough and highly exploratory piece on the creation of the modern Middle East is a delight for the armchair historian and academic alike. With clear and well-developed arguments throughout, a plethora of first-hand documentation, and plausible theses, the book moves effectively through its three main tenets and leaves the reader with a better understanding of the situation at the time and in the current political as well as social denouement. Fromkin argues three key points worth exp Fromkin's thorough and highly exploratory piece on the creation of the modern Middle East is a delight for the armchair historian and academic alike. With clear and well-developed arguments throughout, a plethora of first-hand documentation, and plausible theses, the book moves effectively through its three main tenets and leaves the reader with a better understanding of the situation at the time and in the current political as well as social denouement. Fromkin argues three key points worth exploring below as it relates to the formation of the modern Middle East: loss of the Great War; post-war treaty divisions; and, the lack of foundational European imperialism. Fromkin argues the aforementioned points effectively and leaves the reader to judge whose fault the entire mess could fall to, though it is doubtful the modern actors would take the credit for their predecessors. A stellar piece of work that anyone with an itch for history would surely find captivating. 'To the victors, the spoils!' So goes the adage and how true it is in this context. Fromkin illustrates, through two-thirds of the book, that the modern Middle East was greatly shaped by the side it (for simplicity purposes, let us unite the Ottoman Empire as a cohesive and non-porous entity) chose in the Great War. Turning to Germany, the Ottomans fought alongside the Kaiser in an attempt to hold its territory and defend the honour it had nurtures for half a millennium. While many readers may be familiar with the European arena of war, Fromkin turns the focus of the book on the Asiatic region, specifically that territory under Ottoman control. Taking direction from German military leaders, Ottoman armies were able, for a time, to hold off troops from Britain, France, and Russia, but did eventually fall victim to the larger defeat that befell the German military. This was, inevitably, the first step towards reshaping the Middle East, as the victors took it upon themselves to claim ownership and direct rule over the defeated (and deflated) Empire. The loss in the Great War did play a key role in shaping the modern Middle East, in that it allowed the intoxicated Powers to bandy about ideas for colonising the region in a way that had partially ruined parts of Europe and Africa. The aforementioned adage could have potentially ruined modern political and geography harmony within the region, all due to the European power gluttony that took place as soon as the ink on the armistice documents was left to dry. Fromkin's second key argument related to the modern outcome of the region relates to the power-sharing and territorial smorgasbord the victors imposed on the region. France and Britain took special delight in carving up the region and negotiating treaties to shape these newly independent states in their own image. The two other powers, the United States and Russia, were not as effective in wresting power for themselves (the latter due to its democratic system whereby Congress would not uphold the treaties negotiated on Woodrow Wilson's behalf and the latter because of English-French greed to keep any region from falling to the Bolsheviks), but did play a small role in the early stages of treaty negotiations. While seen as a single entity in modern geography (though keeping its independent states), the Middle East was turned into a sausage-making experiment, jamming many ideas into one area in hopes that something productive might ensue. This was not the case, nor did it effectively work in the short-term. Fromkin's arcing thesis for the book can best be summed up in his own words in the latter pages of this work: “The Middle East became what it is today both because the European powers undertook to re-shape it and because Britain and France failed to ensure that the dynasties, the states, and the political system that they established would permanently endure.” In addition to this treaty-negotiation venture, one area bandied about for long periods of time, but never effectively actioned was the role of a Jewish State. Arguments were made by both Britain and France, outlining the importance of this (the Balfour Declaration was also newly minted), but nothing came to fruition, even while its importance spanned pages of Fromkin's narrative. Hindsight being what it is, could proper and thorough negotiations have been undertaken to effectively push for a Jewish State (choosing the modern location of Israel), the 'coming home' might have taken place, leaving the new German regime from enacting its atrocities and keeping Stalin from instilling his demented Soviet pogroms on the Jews. All this can, again, be summed up by Fromkin's aforementioned quote and only goes to illustrate how poorly the victors handled the entire process. Fromkin's final argument about the development of the modern Middle East flows directly from its second. After trying to instil order in the region with puppet governments and like-minded leaders, the two European powers stood back and watched. They let these regimes flounder and saw countless states revert to old ways, though this time without the umbrella of Ottoman guidance. Fromkin makes a point (and a simplistic one at that) throughout, that these states were not only under Ottoman rule for centuries, but also that their ways of life were completely different from European political and social norms. Nomadic rather than aristocratic; survivalist rather than socially-minded; Muslim rather than Christian. The great differences abound, which only go to show how this loose imperialism could not help but fail, especially when the two political puppeteers would not stand by their work and force its development in their own images. Infighting amongst the allies did not help either, but it was this pathetic straw foundation on which these new nation-states were placed that made their westernised failure all but inevitable. Fromkin pushes this argument from the outset, that Middle Eastern divisions were not made to effectively help the various nation-states to walk on their own two feet after Ottoman rule, but to expand a dwindling imperial dream of two European states whose influence in the world was itself fizzling out faster than anything else. As a final comment to the reader, while Fromkin's book is by no means a swift read, its attention to detail and strong arguments cannot be matched. Read alongside Margaret MacMillan's PARIS 1919, the reader will see the power (and failure) of post-Great War treaty making and might, if given the chance, help bolster the idea that much of the modern world's issues and challenges, at least from a political and civil unrest perspective in Europe and the Middle East all stem from the negotiations to redesign these regions from 1919-1922. Both books are powerful tomes whose theses leave a full on omelet on the faces of British, French, American, and even Russian politicians. Well worth the invested time and effort of any curious reader. Kudos, Dr. Fromkin for yet another stellar piece of work surrounding the Great War. I have nothing but the utmost praise for you and all you do.

  3. 4 out of 5

    David

    This book was recommended in the article “A Reporter's Arab Library”, N Y Times Book Review, 30 Oct 2005. This is an excellent book, but will strike different people differently. People used to reading serious history will find it easy to read – the author's conclusions are clearly stated and supporting evidence easily located. People used to reading novels will find it hard to read – there is a bewildering variety of place names and personalities to keep track of. People who derive a sense of sa This book was recommended in the article “A Reporter's Arab Library”, N Y Times Book Review, 30 Oct 2005. This is an excellent book, but will strike different people differently. People used to reading serious history will find it easy to read – the author's conclusions are clearly stated and supporting evidence easily located. People used to reading novels will find it hard to read – there is a bewildering variety of place names and personalities to keep track of. People who derive a sense of satisfaction from understanding a complex situation will find this book satisfying – the author makes a lot of things that appear in the newspaper clearer. People who are dismayed, annoyed, or depressed by the spectacle of the great and mighty screwing up the world will find this book unpleasant – it is the chronicle of a delicate international situation handled in the worst way possible, with the result of years and years of unnecessary and senseless murder and mayhem. Comparisons between the present situation and that portrayed in the book are unavoidable. In each case, a tiny cabal of self-proclaimed experts, whose ignorance was matched only by their self-regard, managed to convince a credulous world of a preposterous conspiracy theory. (To be fair, compared to the belief, apparently held by many in powerful British circles at the time of WWI that the Ottoman Empire was secretly controlled by a cabal of Jews and Freemasons, believers in the claim that Iraq had WMD appear almost reasonable.) Another parallel: self-serving native political charlatans latched themselves to western policymakers like barnacles, unstoppable in their efforts to leech as much money and influence as possible from their clients. And, finally, in the end, governments ended up supporting policies they knew to be failures out of bureaucratic inertia and a desire to “save face”. Read this book. Understand the world. It's your right as a citizen and a responsibility as a human being.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dimitri

    The first two-thirds of the book necessarily deals with diplomacy during the war. "Broken promises" is a central theme in the post-war new order in the Middle East. Fresh off reading Ulrichsen, I could hurry this part. The final 200 pages look at the emergence of each new country up to the general Middle East settlement of 1922. Did Fromkin, not a historian by trade, rely too much on official sources? How relevant is this book to understand the modern Middle East ? I only qualify to offer an opi The first two-thirds of the book necessarily deals with diplomacy during the war. "Broken promises" is a central theme in the post-war new order in the Middle East. Fresh off reading Ulrichsen, I could hurry this part. The final 200 pages look at the emergence of each new country up to the general Middle East settlement of 1922. Did Fromkin, not a historian by trade, rely too much on official sources? How relevant is this book to understand the modern Middle East ? I only qualify to offer an opinion on the second question. The book is unquestionably relevant, especially in understanding the roots of the Israeli conflict, but the cutoff date leaves me in 2014 with an incomplete picture of Iraq & Syria. The new afterword to the 2009 edition is an equal tease, dating back to just before the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war. Still, it was convenient to have this book republished just when we were again forced to ask ourselves "Why do some people in the Middle East keep telling us that it's our own fault for what we did a good century ago?". Nation-building in the former lands of Mesopotamia certainly has not gotten easier, so in yet another 100 years we might face blame akin to the French & British policy makers. In the spirit of the time, open and total colonial mastery mastery was acceptable, in spite of the wartime moral defence of the rights of small nations such as Belgium. However, imperial exhaustion and technological limitations made this unsupportable in the long run. Today, we find ourselves with opposite obstacles.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    It took me a little longer than I expected to read this rather fascinating book as it slowed down to a crawl toward the end. Most history readers are familiar with the dissection of the Middle East (as well as parts of Europe) as a result of the infamous Versailles Treaty. At the beginning of the war, the Ottoman Empire, caught in the middle of this disruption, was already shaky at best and its own people couldn't decide which side they should take. This was a "empire" that spoke many languages, It took me a little longer than I expected to read this rather fascinating book as it slowed down to a crawl toward the end. Most history readers are familiar with the dissection of the Middle East (as well as parts of Europe) as a result of the infamous Versailles Treaty. At the beginning of the war, the Ottoman Empire, caught in the middle of this disruption, was already shaky at best and its own people couldn't decide which side they should take. This was a "empire" that spoke many languages, had many religions, and no common cultural base, so it is not surprising that it was caught in a whirlwind of espionage, broken treaties, and inept leadership. Moving toward more modern times, the effects of the above stated differences muddied the waters and prevented the creation of a cohesive agreement among the countries involved. The Ottoman Empire disappeared and problems arose that still resonate today. An interesting read which also looks beneath some of the myths of that troubled time. Recommended.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Czarny Pies

    "A Peace to End all Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East" is a superb work of synthesis history about how British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire and its many components evolved between 1912 and 1922 when the Ottoman Empire was formally dissolved. Fromkin deals with the Turks, Jews, Arabs, Greeks and Armenians to the extent that he indicates what assumptions that the British made about these various groups. His focus is on the territory that covers m "A Peace to End all Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East" is a superb work of synthesis history about how British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire and its many components evolved between 1912 and 1922 when the Ottoman Empire was formally dissolved. Fromkin deals with the Turks, Jews, Arabs, Greeks and Armenians to the extent that he indicates what assumptions that the British made about these various groups. His focus is on the territory that covers modern Turkey, Iraq, Israel, Syria and Jordan. He does not truly examine either the Arabian peninsula or Egypt. What he does do is to very carefully examine the four groups within the British camp: the diplomatic corps, the military, the government of India and the British parliamentarians. Up until 1914, Britain's objective had been to protect the steadily weakening Ottoman Empire from the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires that were taking territory from it. The British saw no economic advantages and considerable expense from seizing any of the territories of the Ottoman Empire. The military, the diplomats and the Indian Colonial administrators feared that the Jewish settlements in the Holy Land had the potential to anger the Muslims and destabilize the region. The politicians tended to favour Jewish settlement either because of positive personal experiences with English Jews or because they accepted the Biblical assertions that God had intended for the Jews to live in the region. Chance determined British actions. Turkey entered the war on the side of the Axis. The British then successfully waged war upon Turkey occupying Mesopotamia (Iraq) , Syria (Lebanon and Syria) and Palestine (Israel and Jordan). Having spent heavily to win WWI, the British discovered that they lacked the financial means to pay for armies large enough to maintain order in the regions that they had captured. Thus in 1922, after installing friendly regimes they departed leaving small military forces in Palestine and the Suez Canal zone. The prime problem was that the British operated with consistently bad intelligence and lurid imaginations. A large faction within the Foreign Office believed through-out most of the period that the policies of the Ottomans were controlled by a German-Jewish cabal. Another group in the Foreign Office believed that he same German-Jewish conspirators controlled Communist Russia. The Indian Office was convinced that the Muslims of India would revolt if the British deposed the Sultan who claimed to be the Caliph (leader of Islam). The military believed that the Arabs were incapable of governing themselves. Fromkin a Jew is very fair despite his biases. He makes clear his disdain for those who believed that German-Jewish plotters were controlling events in Russia and Turkey. However, he is also critical of those who refused to recognize legitimate Arab grievances . Although grateful to Lloyd George and Balfour for supporting Jewish colonization in the Holy Land, he finds that their belief that the Bible sanctioned such an initiative to be overly simplistic. Fromkin has written a fine book that does indeed explain how the Middle East was created. His assertion that the mistakes of the period from 1912 to 1922 made the current problems in the region inevitable is nonetheless an overstatement.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Weinstein

    For those of us seeking to understand the middle east, this is an excellent presentation of how, after WWI, the Brits and French divided the area, created new countries, and set the stage for conflict and disaster. Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Iran, Saudi Arabia ... none of these were on the map in 1914 and all were there in 1922. Of particular interest to me were the chapters devoted to the quite significant role of Winston Churchill. Fascinating insights into a remarkable person. There wer For those of us seeking to understand the middle east, this is an excellent presentation of how, after WWI, the Brits and French divided the area, created new countries, and set the stage for conflict and disaster. Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Iran, Saudi Arabia ... none of these were on the map in 1914 and all were there in 1922. Of particular interest to me were the chapters devoted to the quite significant role of Winston Churchill. Fascinating insights into a remarkable person. There were many detailed chapters that, for now, I skipped, but the book was still of great value.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    This book details the fall of the Ottoman Empire and creation of the modern Middle East. The Ottoman Empire, like most empires built upon rapid acquisition by a warrior people (the conquests of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane are other examples) couldn’t effectively manage (after 500 years of trying) their conquered territory. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Ottoman Empire was collapsing faster than a cheap deck chair beneath a fat man. One of the architects of the new order (circa 1908 This book details the fall of the Ottoman Empire and creation of the modern Middle East. The Ottoman Empire, like most empires built upon rapid acquisition by a warrior people (the conquests of Genghis Khan and Tamerlane are other examples) couldn’t effectively manage (after 500 years of trying) their conquered territory. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Ottoman Empire was collapsing faster than a cheap deck chair beneath a fat man. One of the architects of the new order (circa 1908), the Young Turks, was Mehmed Talaat. He was described by a British diplomat with, “a light in his eyes rarely seen in men, but sometimes in animals at dusk”., thus revealing the British knack for the patronizing (yet funny) remark. The Young Turks didn’t last beyond the end of World War I and were eventually superseded by Kemal Ataturk and the Republic of Turkey. After World War I, the Europeans essentially did the same thing to the Middle East that they had done to Africa a few decades earlier (they were also under the antiquated notion that if they won a war, they should be entitled to the spoils of victory). They carved the Ottoman Empire up without any thought to the indigenous people who already lived there; thus, creating borders and nations that had no logic beyond the drawing room. And of course, this created problems that have plagued the Middle East and by extension the rest of the world to this day.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A broad, comprehensive and well-researched history of the Middle East from 1914 to 1922, focusing on the intervention of the great powers. The narrative is straightforward, well-organized and very readable. Fromkin does a good job in structuring his story around influential players such as Lloyd George, Kitchener, Churchill, Sykes, Lawrence, Feisal, Woodrow Wilson, and Mustafa Kemal, and in telling their stories without losing sight of the big picture. His portrait of Lawrence is pretty evenhand A broad, comprehensive and well-researched history of the Middle East from 1914 to 1922, focusing on the intervention of the great powers. The narrative is straightforward, well-organized and very readable. Fromkin does a good job in structuring his story around influential players such as Lloyd George, Kitchener, Churchill, Sykes, Lawrence, Feisal, Woodrow Wilson, and Mustafa Kemal, and in telling their stories without losing sight of the big picture. His portrait of Lawrence is pretty evenhanded and Fromkin doesn’t try to romanticize him.The Ottoman and Russian dimensions of the story are well presented. Some may find the locations and people a bit hard to keep track of. Some better maps would also have helped. Some readers might find the book too Anglocentric. There could have been a little more coverage of the King-Crane report. Fromkin also argues that, of all the figures covered in the book, Churchill had the most impact. He’s mentioned a lot in the book, for sure, but that argument could have been expanded on, and doesn’t always convince; in a lot of the major decisions made, Churchill doesn’t appear. Also, some of Fromkin’s statements seem unsupported. When discussing Djemal Pasha’s expulsion of Jews from Palestine in 1914-1915, he attributes it to a general plan to destroy the Jewish community there. However, that edict applied only to citizens of belligerent nations, and was then actually amended to exempt British and French Jews. When discussing Muhammed Sharif al-Faruqi and the claims he made to British intelligence officers, Fromkin repeatedly refers to a “hoax” on al-Faruqi’s part, but doesn’t clearly explain exactly what this hoax was. When discussing the Hussein-McMahon correspondence, Fromkin claims that, when you look at its awkward grammar and evasive style, the British didn’t give Hussein any concrete promises. However, if you actually read these documents (and glance at a map), it’s clear what Hussein agreed to (or thought he was agreeing to) The British also believed that promises had been made. Why else would they have tried to keep Sykes-Picot a secret? Fromkin also asserts that Palestine was excluded from the independent Arab state proposed to Hussein, with Hussein’s agreement. However, while McMahon did mention “modifications” for Syria, he didn’t mention Palestine. Still, a clear, nuanced and well-written work overall.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Cendri

    An interesting history of the machinations that set the stage for the current Middle East. I've read more gripping historical counts, but this is very detailed, and well thought out. It traces the usually (but not always) well-intentioned policies, the brilliant but ill-informed and culturally ignorant politicians, and the unfortunate historical legacy of the Great Game played by the European powers that led to a division of peoples and power in the remains of the Ottoman Empire during and in th An interesting history of the machinations that set the stage for the current Middle East. I've read more gripping historical counts, but this is very detailed, and well thought out. It traces the usually (but not always) well-intentioned policies, the brilliant but ill-informed and culturally ignorant politicians, and the unfortunate historical legacy of the Great Game played by the European powers that led to a division of peoples and power in the remains of the Ottoman Empire during and in the years immediately after World War I. It was interesting to me primarily because at each stage the current outlines of the Middle East conflict become increasingly clear, and one sees how policies that appeared to make some sense at the time, at least from one perspective, were disastrous from another. Perhaps the most profound observation comes at the very end, in Fromkin's comparison of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire to the collapse of the Roman Empire. After the crumbling of Rome, it took nearly a millenium for the boundaries and balance of power to stabilize. How long it will take for the Middle East is a question that has yet to be answered.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Finch

    An excellent, well-researched examination of how the European allied powers turned the end of World War I into an opportunity to carve up the Middle East to their liking. Primarily focusing on British players such as Churchill, Sykes, and Lawrence, it is nonetheless a book that shows the egos and folly of all sides. Despite being a quarter of a century old, it is a worthy read, and has a brief afterword that touches on the Gulf War and 9/11. Fromkin's dry, almost clinical tone actually serves in An excellent, well-researched examination of how the European allied powers turned the end of World War I into an opportunity to carve up the Middle East to their liking. Primarily focusing on British players such as Churchill, Sykes, and Lawrence, it is nonetheless a book that shows the egos and folly of all sides. Despite being a quarter of a century old, it is a worthy read, and has a brief afterword that touches on the Gulf War and 9/11. Fromkin's dry, almost clinical tone actually serves in many places to heighten the reader's sense of the atrocities and injustices visited on multiple peoples, as it throws horrors into stark relief against this excellent recitation of history.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    We learn in great detail how the Middle East around the time of World War One looked from the point of view of British diplomats and politicians. It is fascinating to see how such large decisions were made by a very small group of people, each with their own prejudices, although one can never be sure where the prejudices of the author creep into the narrative. But at the end of all this detail, over a rather short period of time, I find it difficult to form a clear picture of what ultimately hap We learn in great detail how the Middle East around the time of World War One looked from the point of view of British diplomats and politicians. It is fascinating to see how such large decisions were made by a very small group of people, each with their own prejudices, although one can never be sure where the prejudices of the author creep into the narrative. But at the end of all this detail, over a rather short period of time, I find it difficult to form a clear picture of what ultimately happened. I see this book as being useful as part of a larger study of the history of this region, but it does not stand on its own very well.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark Singer

    I can't emphasize enough how this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand why the Middle East is the way it is today. It's long, densely written, and well worth the effort. This book was given to me as a present on my 30th birthday, and I have read it three times since. I can't emphasize enough how this book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand why the Middle East is the way it is today. It's long, densely written, and well worth the effort. This book was given to me as a present on my 30th birthday, and I have read it three times since.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Mohammad Ali Abedi

    The Middle East is such a mess. How come a region which such a golden history is such a political unstable chaos in contemporary times. This book was written in 1989, and the author obviously wondered the same thing, and in the three decades since then, not much has been solved. David Fromkin tries to investigate the root of the causes of all the problems in the Middle East, and he argues that it all goes back to the First World War. Before the World War, the Ottoman Empire apparently controlled The Middle East is such a mess. How come a region which such a golden history is such a political unstable chaos in contemporary times. This book was written in 1989, and the author obviously wondered the same thing, and in the three decades since then, not much has been solved. David Fromkin tries to investigate the root of the causes of all the problems in the Middle East, and he argues that it all goes back to the First World War. Before the World War, the Ottoman Empire apparently controlled most of the lands, although it was more or less in name only, and actual non-Turkish areas seemed to have either ruled themselves or indirectly ruled by the Europeans. After the World War and the victory of the Allies (the Turks were on the other side), they seemed to have wanted to finally carve up the Middle East, since the Ottoman Empire was now fully gone. But things just got from bad to worse. The fascinating thing, and at times greatly upsetting, is how arrogantly the western countries manipulate events. Puppets are placed everywhere and regions are traded between European powers with little regards to the people living there. And after constantly deceptive practices, they now sit back and act surprised that things are complicated in the east. The book does a good job explaining all the events that led up to the formations of the countries in the middle east and such, but I sometimes got tired of its British-centric view. For a book that seems to show how Europeans brought their selfish geopolitical aims in this region, it’s a bit sad that not much attention is given to the locals. Not in 1920s politics, and not in 1988 book writing, I suppose. Also, one last note. When reading the book, when it came to sections on Zionism and Jewish Settlements in Palestine, I thought, “I bet this author is Jewish”. As much as the book tried to be objective everywhere else, he seemed to be the most biased when it came to the Jew/Arab situation in Palestine. In those sections, almost all of the blame was placed on the Arabs, some on the British, and none on the Jewish immigrants itself. It seems extremely unlikely in a book that has situations where both sides in a conflict were shown to be responsible in some way, for the complex and complicated Palestine issue, to be written as if the immigrants were completely flawless. But that part can be somewhat excused, since majority of the book can be very insightful. The reader just has to be careful though. "I fancy that all the people think that I engineered the coup d'etat. I suppose I did, strictly speaking." - British General Ironside on Iran

  15. 4 out of 5

    Clif

    One of the best books I've read, Peace is a thorough account of the events and personalities that shaped the Middle East as a result of World War I. Taking Winston Churchill as the principle character, the framework upon which the book is built, Fromkin let's us see how momentous policies are made, often with complete ignorance of the true situation of the people inhabiting the lands that will be subject to the policy. It also reveals how individuals can change the course of history. I don't refer One of the best books I've read, Peace is a thorough account of the events and personalities that shaped the Middle East as a result of World War I. Taking Winston Churchill as the principle character, the framework upon which the book is built, Fromkin let's us see how momentous policies are made, often with complete ignorance of the true situation of the people inhabiting the lands that will be subject to the policy. It also reveals how individuals can change the course of history. I don't refer only to leaders but also to those who are commanded to implement policy, either military of political, and either interpret the commands in their own way, disobey them or do exactly the opposite of what they were instructed to do. At every level there is the good chance that policy will go astray, the results ranging from disaster to saving the day. I came away from the book marveling that any grand policy can ever be brought to bear in a way even moderately close to its intent. How can it when even those who propose it cannot agree on what is to be accomplished? As the afterward indicates, it's too easy for us today to dismiss the imperialist views of 1918, not realizing that it was central to the mental world of the time and impossible for those living at the time to escape. Peace reinforces my idea that truth is stranger than fiction. This book is an exciting and fascinating read. I kept wondering what would happen next...did I really have to go to bed right away without finding out?! You'll want to have Google Maps running as you read so you can instantly see the particular areas under discussion and you will want Wikipedia open as well to show you pictures of personalities you'll encounter. Best of all, the book will give any reader great insight into the intractability of politics in the Middle East. Why is it called Saudi Arabia? How did Jordan, Israel, Syria and Lebanon come into existence? Why is Jordan's official name "The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan"? What area does the name Palestine refer to? What is the big deal about Islam over there and what was the Caliphate? Most of all, what was the Ottoman Empire that has seemingly vanished from American minds? Excitement, education and great story-telling all in one package. Bravo to David Fromkin for this masterpiece.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Robert Kroese

    A Peace to End All Peace covers the events leading up to what Fromkin calls the "Settlement of 1922," when the political boundaries and institutions that were to predominate in the Middle East for most of the next century took shape. The book details the many factors involved, such as the rise of Zionism, the exaggerated sense of importance to the war effort of both Jews and Arabs that predominated in Europe, and the personal ambitions of the many actors on the stage, from Winston Churchill to S A Peace to End All Peace covers the events leading up to what Fromkin calls the "Settlement of 1922," when the political boundaries and institutions that were to predominate in the Middle East for most of the next century took shape. The book details the many factors involved, such as the rise of Zionism, the exaggerated sense of importance to the war effort of both Jews and Arabs that predominated in Europe, and the personal ambitions of the many actors on the stage, from Winston Churchill to Sherif Hussein, that led to these fateful outcomes. Fromkin argues in this book that the modern Middle East was created in large part by the actions of a few European countries during the crucial years of 1914 to 1922. The main text of A Peace to End All Peace is over 500 pages long, dealing in painstaking detail with the events that led up to the treaties that ended the First World War. It is in some senses a work of journalism, offering a sort of objective play-by-play of events without a great deal of analysis. The narrative is very well-written, engaging and easy to follow. It is accessible, not assuming a great deal of familiarity of the subject material (the maps at the beginning of the book are invaluable), and logically organized, following events chronologically within a larger thematic structure. Particularly helpful is the way Fromkin will parenthetically re-introduce a person that we have met earlier, rather than expecting the reader to remember the dozens of characters that weave in and out of the narrative. The characters are given depth and motivation, without erring into presumptive amateur psychoanalysis or pseudo-historical "reconstructed" dialog.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    What a slog! This book aggravated me on so many levels: the author's inconsistent use of sources to provide context on the Arab and Turkish perspectives, his irresponsible handling of the Zionist/Arab conflict, his irresponsible handling of the Armenian/Ottoman and Greek/Ottoman politics, etc. Moreover, he tries to center the book on Winston Churchill, who I don't find to be a terribly charismatic character... but then he doesn't even have Churchill in the book for the middle 300ish pages. Go fi What a slog! This book aggravated me on so many levels: the author's inconsistent use of sources to provide context on the Arab and Turkish perspectives, his irresponsible handling of the Zionist/Arab conflict, his irresponsible handling of the Armenian/Ottoman and Greek/Ottoman politics, etc. Moreover, he tries to center the book on Winston Churchill, who I don't find to be a terribly charismatic character... but then he doesn't even have Churchill in the book for the middle 300ish pages. Go figure. Even with that benefit, the book still is too detailed, too ambitious, too... obnoxiously dead-white-men... AND I'M A POLITICAL HISTORIAN. Yuck. That said, to be fair, it does have some useful information on the ways that British policy stumbled through the war, and does a fair job of demonstrating the tensions between the Foreign Office, War Office, Arab Bureau, and India Office. Lloyd George features prominently when Churchill falls off the map for a while-- and I do love Lloyd George. And as a teaching tool, this serves a really useful purpose by creating frequent opportunities for widening students' perspectives by countering with other historians' interpretations of events. For anyone with a serious interest in WWI and the Middle East, I would recommend Malcolm Yapp's work over this one any day... but that one's currently out of print and hard to find.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Avempace

    Churchillian hagiography, Zionist bias, and cherry picked details. The book is informative as a reflection of how Middle Eastern history was (and continues to be) seen by a safely middlebrow American academe and bureaucracy reared within the confines of its 20th century dominance and influence. No wonder the oil and terror wars of the last generation have been so utterly bungled by ignorant elites.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mayim de Vries

    A must read for anyone interested in Middle East's fragile security architecture, protracted war involving nearly all states in the region, social and economic crises, and the role of the West. Key to understanding that contemporary problems with the Islamic State are in fact merely a symptom, and not a cause or an essence of current situation. A must read for anyone interested in Middle East's fragile security architecture, protracted war involving nearly all states in the region, social and economic crises, and the role of the West. Key to understanding that contemporary problems with the Islamic State are in fact merely a symptom, and not a cause or an essence of current situation.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Hana

    One of the most insightful and depressing books I've ever read about the Middle East. It explains so much about the grim legacy that lives in on-going conflicts. One of the most insightful and depressing books I've ever read about the Middle East. It explains so much about the grim legacy that lives in on-going conflicts.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael Burnam-Fink

    A Peace to End All Peace is a serious work of scholarship in understanding the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the foundations of the modern Middle East in the aftermath of World War I. It's deeply researched and painstaking in presenting the different views inside the British government. It is also somewhat scattered, difficult to read, and feels like it's missing key parts. In 1914, it was obvious to all that the Ottoman Empire was on the ropes. Perpetually broke, technologically backwards, A Peace to End All Peace is a serious work of scholarship in understanding the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the foundations of the modern Middle East in the aftermath of World War I. It's deeply researched and painstaking in presenting the different views inside the British government. It is also somewhat scattered, difficult to read, and feels like it's missing key parts. In 1914, it was obvious to all that the Ottoman Empire was on the ropes. Perpetually broke, technologically backwards, with major concessions to European powers over the rights of Christian minorities and the sovereignty of Egypt, and riddled with radical reformist secret societies, the Ottomans were ready for collapse. When the war came, and they aligned with the Entente, it would just take a few sharp invasions to topple the whole rotten edifice, at least in theory. In practice, it was a different matter, as the Ottoman's repelled an invasion at Gallipoli, and another in Iraq. The Bedouin revolts promised by Arabian princes were expensive and ineffective, contra the self-made myth of T.E. Lawrence (which takes a knocking in this book). British policy was far from unified, even as events tilted towards them in 1918. The Prime Minister opposed the Minister of War opposed the Government of India opposed the Cairo Bureau opposed the Foreign Office. The bureaucratic infighting involved frequent changes of position, punctuated by major position papers, including the Balfour Declaration, which guaranteed a Jewish homeland in Palestine, the secret Sykes-Picot arrangement which divided up the Middle East between Britain and France, and a host of treaties and declaration of principles. But truth is decided by the facts on the ground, and it is here, in the key period between 1918 and 1922 that the narrative loses steam. Immediately after the armistice, Britain had a million man army spread across the Middle East. They demobilized, and a multisided conflict between European rump armies, Bolshevik missions from Russia, a new ethnic Turkish army, and the Greeks lead to major battles. When the dust finally cleared, the Middle East was much as we see it today, with the building blocks of Turkey, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and seeds of the Israel/Palestine conflict. The British were left the inheritors of a system they no longer wanted or had faith in.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Tony Heyl

    Reading Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace could very well give you the impression that World War I was the dumbest war ever. Yet at the same time, every miscalculation, every arrogance, every partnership created and dissolved, seems to make sense in terms of the historical actors involved. Lesson one: Never doubt the human capacity to make very bad decisions. Lesson two: If you don't learn history, you are doomed to repeat it. And we've been repeating many things. This book is not about all of Wor Reading Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace could very well give you the impression that World War I was the dumbest war ever. Yet at the same time, every miscalculation, every arrogance, every partnership created and dissolved, seems to make sense in terms of the historical actors involved. Lesson one: Never doubt the human capacity to make very bad decisions. Lesson two: If you don't learn history, you are doomed to repeat it. And we've been repeating many things. This book is not about all of World War I, but instead just about how the Ottoman Empire got into the war, how the war in the Middle East was fought, and, most importantly, how the eventual peace shaped the world in ways that nobody at the time could have understood. The British saw Islam as organized similarly to Catholicism, which caused bad decisions, but also is frustrating to read since Islam wasn't exactly "new" in 1914. The West also saw the Arabs as inferior, and sometimes that stereotyping was proven true, but more than anything, the two cultures were just very alien to each other. The West tried to define the Islamic world as just like the West, only with some different language and customs. On the flip side, the Arabs saw the Allies through their own prism, and nobody seemed to know who was saying what. Intelligence was botched, mistakes were made, and many times in the following decades, history would repeat itself. The Declarations put together at this time lead to the creation of Israel and it is interesting to see how many Jews really didn't see an Israeli state as that important and how the Arabs weren't necessarily against having the Jews there, at least at the time, they just didn't want anything imposed on them. Oh, and the heads of the British cause thought that creating a Jewish state would bring Jesus back, which makes sense if you disregard logic. The internal politics with the countries involved could not be stressed enough. The goals of France and Britain for the Middle East flipped because of changes in elections. The legitimacy of the League of Nations mandates was quickly thrown out when America, following Wilson leaving office and the Senate diavowing the League, didn't help, and the British were basically like "what the fuck guys?" And the Bolshevik Revolution, supported in part by Germany, which is an interesting story in itself, added so many complexities to the war and the world as the Russian interests in the region changed and the desire to dedicate resources. Everything was defined through the eye of Empire because everybody, in some sense, was part of one. The Ottomans were on the decline at the start of the war as they had little ability to hold onto their territories and chaos reigned with new leadership. Churchill was a hero, a goat, a villain, a hero, a villain, and on and on over again. Countries that should have stayed to enforce agreements pulled out when their populations stopped caring and wanted attention back home. The world was complex, and the Peace created here made the world even more complex. One final note about how Fromkin writes. He treats the reader like an adult, writes intelligently, but doesn't expect you to know everything either. It's a long read, but an important one.

  23. 4 out of 5

    G.d. Brennan

    World War I was a profound cataclysm for much of the world. In some places, its effects were merely monumental, but in others, its consequences were so great that we are only now beginning to deal with them. World War I may have changed the face of Europe dramatically, but it completely remade the face of the Middle East. And that remaking has had profound aftereffects--virtually every major problem in that region (from the insurgency in Iraq, to the Israli-Palestinian conflict, to the struggle World War I was a profound cataclysm for much of the world. In some places, its effects were merely monumental, but in others, its consequences were so great that we are only now beginning to deal with them. World War I may have changed the face of Europe dramatically, but it completely remade the face of the Middle East. And that remaking has had profound aftereffects--virtually every major problem in that region (from the insurgency in Iraq, to the Israli-Palestinian conflict, to the struggle for the soul of Saudi Arabia) has roots in this book's subject, the death of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the modern Middle East. In this excellent history, which is comprehensive but still compelling, stimulating but still scholarly, David Fromkin tracks that birth, deftly illuminating its causes and hinting at its consequences. His book looks in great detail at the initial phases of the war, showing how British and French diplomats and soldiers dealt with a region that initially appeared to be nothing but a backwater. This history looks behind the "Lawrence of Arabia" myths to show with much greater accuracy how the British and French contributed to the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. And it illustrates what appears now to have been the true high-water mark of European colonialism--the drawing of Middle Eastern borders and the creation of Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Israel by British and French burecrats. Rare indeed are the opportunities to seize the reins of history and lead it in an altogether new and better direction. The British and French had such an opportunity after World War I, and they bungled it badly, creating nations without regard for ethnic or political distinctions, nations without any real reason for being, except to serve as thrones for the Hashemites who had helped the British and French defeat the Turks but who ended up being driven out of Saudi Arabia by Ibn Saud. Ever wonder why Iraq is such a motley and volatile mix of Shi'ite, Sunni and Kurd? Or why Jordan, Syria and Iraq have borders that don't really follow any geographic or ethnic lines? Read this book, and you'll understand, and weep. It's not a completely perfect study--while Fromkin generally does a good job walking the tightrope between readability and accuracy, at times the book slows down under the weight of all the facts he provides. Also, he understands and conveys the machinations of the British and French burecrats somewhat better than he does with the various Arabs and Turks who played a role in these events. Lastly, Fromkin perhaps doesn't give some events (the Armenian Massacre, for instance) enough play. But don't let those relatively minor flaws stop you--this is as good a work as has ever been written on its subject, and it's unlikely a better and more comprehensive one will ever appear. A history professor once told me that World War I was the most important single event in Middle Eastern history since Mohammed. After reading this book, I understood why.

  24. 5 out of 5

    thad.miller

    A VERY detailed examination of the Middle Eastern theater before, during and after WWI. Fromkin looks at the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the characters and processes that drew up the boundaries of what essentially became the current day Middle East up to the "settlement of 1922." For anyone looks for a non-biased, historical look into the complexities of the Middle East situation, this is a fantastic (though extremely dense) book. The final chapter really brings it home as Fromkin poses the q A VERY detailed examination of the Middle Eastern theater before, during and after WWI. Fromkin looks at the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the characters and processes that drew up the boundaries of what essentially became the current day Middle East up to the "settlement of 1922." For anyone looks for a non-biased, historical look into the complexities of the Middle East situation, this is a fantastic (though extremely dense) book. The final chapter really brings it home as Fromkin poses the question as to whether the boundaries drawn up during this period and the European style of government put in place are appropriate to the region. And, he does this without hitting you over the head with current problems, he simply lays out the events and then poses this question. Another interesting side story through the book is what essentially is the fall of the British Empire due to a variety of reasons including it's entanglement in the Middle East and its inability to understand the complexities of the situation.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Justin

    If you have the patience to read about 500 pages of dense historical observation and testimony you will find out the reason why there isn't going to be an easy answer to our contemporary problems in the region. You may wind up lamenting everything with a newfound sense of historical fatalism, you may both curse and yearn for the times of empire and colony, but you should come to the conclusion that we can no longer afford to have people without any dilplomatic sense, or idea of realpolitik influ If you have the patience to read about 500 pages of dense historical observation and testimony you will find out the reason why there isn't going to be an easy answer to our contemporary problems in the region. You may wind up lamenting everything with a newfound sense of historical fatalism, you may both curse and yearn for the times of empire and colony, but you should come to the conclusion that we can no longer afford to have people without any dilplomatic sense, or idea of realpolitik influencing the region.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ilinca

    I wanted a book to explain the origins of the current conflict in the Middle East. This was pretty much it. Now I have to move on to a book that goes beyond 1922, but that's not in any way to say Fromkin did not deliver. It does explain how Great Britain and France pretty much muddled things in the area during and after WWI. Oh well, it's obviously more complicated than that. I guess you have to read the book :) I wanted a book to explain the origins of the current conflict in the Middle East. This was pretty much it. Now I have to move on to a book that goes beyond 1922, but that's not in any way to say Fromkin did not deliver. It does explain how Great Britain and France pretty much muddled things in the area during and after WWI. Oh well, it's obviously more complicated than that. I guess you have to read the book :)

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    A perfect example for how a history book should be written. Engaging and educational.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Matt Brady

    got lots of thoughts on this but the only one that springs to mind right now is how prince feisal sounds a bit like prince failson. anyway it's real good. got lots of thoughts on this but the only one that springs to mind right now is how prince feisal sounds a bit like prince failson. anyway it's real good.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ron Peters

    After World War One, the question was, once the Ottoman Empire – the structure that had held the Middle East together for centuries – was destroyed, what would hold things together? Some areas, such as Turkey, Egypt, and Iran, already had long histories as a people with a shared social, cultural, psychological, and emotional identity. But the states that had been cobbled together by Europeans with no regard for, or consultation with, the local inhabitants lacked legitimacy, and so, lacked stabil After World War One, the question was, once the Ottoman Empire – the structure that had held the Middle East together for centuries – was destroyed, what would hold things together? Some areas, such as Turkey, Egypt, and Iran, already had long histories as a people with a shared social, cultural, psychological, and emotional identity. But the states that had been cobbled together by Europeans with no regard for, or consultation with, the local inhabitants lacked legitimacy, and so, lacked stability. Top this with the fact that these nations were now ruled by foreigners of a different religion, or by their puppets. These include the countries at the heart of the modern Middle East: Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, which are also its most perpetually troubled. It also includes the country that Europeans chose not to form, namely Kurdistan. The book is discouraging in the extreme when considering the prospects for humanity as a species. Every single state player ignorantly and greedily looks solely after its self-interest and pursues those interests in the most jingoist fashion possible. Everyone appears to hold racist views of everyone else. No attention is paid to truth, morals, or to what any other nation wants except where another nation’s interests are of temporary transactional value for one’s own position. This is repeatedly demonstrated to be as true of the key individual players involved as it is at the level of states. Outside of Wilson’s soon-to-be-eliminated League of Nations, this is a story of pure realpolitik from start to finish. Overall this is an excellent book. But it is the kind of book that gets called ‘magisterial’ and which everyone knows is code for ‘too darned long for its purpose.’ Fromkin includes large swathes of detailed British political bickering which is perfectly unnecessary; he could have cut a hundred pages of such material with no material effect, or rather, as an improvement. But the main flaw of the book is that Fromkin decides that the best way to present this information is from the British perspective, rather than from the point of view of the Middle Eastern players. In particular, he focuses the book strongly on Churchill. In this, he succeeds in viewing things through the same set of purblind nationalist blinkers that he otherwise so successfully condemns throughout the book.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Some warnings about this book: first, the author is not a historian and this book was done in the 1980s I believe. It does not have some of the more up-to-date language one might expect (one example is the use of the term native - it seems to have fallen out of use in more recent times due to certain negative connotations). Keep this in mind. Second, if you are going to read this based solely on shorter summaries, you may not be aware that it’s a very British viewpoint we are receiving. I didn’t Some warnings about this book: first, the author is not a historian and this book was done in the 1980s I believe. It does not have some of the more up-to-date language one might expect (one example is the use of the term native - it seems to have fallen out of use in more recent times due to certain negative connotations). Keep this in mind. Second, if you are going to read this based solely on shorter summaries, you may not be aware that it’s a very British viewpoint we are receiving. I didn’t expect to have that going in and it doesn’t make the book bad, but if you’re expecting in-depth detail about politics from all sides of the conflict, you will want to supplement with other sources. We do get summaries of what is going on in the governments outside Britain, but British figures are the main actors in this telling. Third, it’s not the most gripping writing. I’ve read historic works that flow more easily. It took me nearly six months to read this as at some points I would only read five pages in a week. Just something to be aware of. For all I’ve listed here, this book still has a lot of information and doesn’t expect the reader to have a basic understanding of the issue, so you can go in to this as a novice. This work taught me many many things I didn’t know, but it’s not without it’s issues.

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