Autumn 2011 Preview: New books on the Middle east

Yale University Press publishes cutting-edge current affairs books. Today we look at Yale’s Autumn 2011 list, picking specific titles that deal with conflicts in the Middle East, including a revised edition of Tarek Osman’s acclaimed and prescient Egypt on the Brink.

In the last hour the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad has addressed his country for the first time in two months, following weeks of bloody state repression and international outrage. Meanwhile, in Tunisia today, the trial of Ben Ali will begin (although the ex-president will not actually be present). In Egypt, calls are growing for a delay of September’s parliamentary elections to give parties more time to organize, due to fears that the Muslim Brotherhood will dominate and exert Islamist influence over the new constitution. Meanwhile Egypt’s presidential elections scheduled for November are throwing up similar concerns  (although the list of other candidates also includes Bothaina Kamel, the first woman in Egyptian history to run for the presidency).

Egypt on the Brink - Revised Edition

Yale University Press has published a number of books on the Middle East during the past year. One of the most successful and prescient titles was Egypt on the Brink, Tarek Osman’s lively account of Egypt, its recent history, and myriad internal conflicts and frustrations, which was published in November 2010 to immediate acclaim (read a previous article on this blog). Since then, the Egyptian people have risen in protest against the regime and President Mubarak has been forced to resign. In the aftermath of these events Yale is publishing a fully revised and updated edition, now entitled Egypt on the Brink: From the Rise of Nasser to the Fall of Mubarak, in which Osman tells the extraordinary story of the February 2011 protests, and discusses their implications for Egypt and the rest of the world.

Losing Small Wars2011 is also the 10th anniversary of the conflict in Afghanistan. As well as Yale’s book Afghanistan: How the West Lost its Way (published last month) Yale is publishing Losing Small Wars: British Military Failure in Iraq and Afghanistan by former  military intelligence officer Frank Ledwidge. The book focuses on the British armed forces’ recent performance in Iraq and Afghanistan is widely seen as – at best – disappointing. Under British control, Basra degenerated into a lawless city riven with internecine violence, while tactical mistakes and strategic incompetence in Helmand province resulted in heavy civilian and military casualties and a climate of violence and insecurity. In both cases the British were eventually and humiliatingly bailed out by the US army. In his thoughtful book, Frank Ledwidge examines the British involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, asking how and why it went so wrong. With the aid of copious research, interviews with senior officers and his own personal experiences, he looks in detail at the failures of strategic thinking and culture that led to defeat in Britain’s latest ‘small wars’. It is an eye-opening analysis of the causes of military failure, and its enormous costs.

Also out in paperback as part of Yale’s autumn 2011 season, is Martin Gilbert’s In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands. In his book, Gilbert challenges the standard media portrayal of the relationship between Jews and Muslims, and presents a fascinating account of hope, opportunity, fear, and terror that have characterized these two people through the 1,400 years of their intertwined history.  Gilbert takes the reader from the origins of the fraught relationship, through the ages of the Crusader reconquest of the Holy Land and the great Muslim sultanates to the present day. He explores the impact of Zionism in the first half of the twentieth century, the clash of nationalisms during the Second World War, the mass expulsions and exodus of 800,000 Jews from Muslim lands following the birth of Israel, the Six-Day War and its aftermath, and the political sensitivities of the current Middle East. In Ishmael’s House sheds light on a time of prosperity and opportunity for Jews in Muslim lands stretching from Morocco to Afghanistan, with many instances of Muslim openness, support, and courage. Ultimately Gilbert’s moving account of mutual tolerance between Muslims and Jews provides a perspective on current events and a template for the future.

Also published as part of the new season is Israel: An Introduction by Barry Rubin (to be published late 2011/early 2012). This comprehensive book provides a well-rounded introduction to Israel – a definitive account of the nation’s past, its often controversial present, and much more. Edited by a leading historian of the Middle East, Israel is organized around six major themes: land and people, history, society, politics, economics, and culture. The only available volume to offer such a complete account, this book is written for general readers and students who may have little background knowledge of this nation or its rich culture. The contributors to the book, all scholars with extensive firsthand knowledge of Israel, offer accessible, clearly explained material, enhanced with a generous selection of images, maps, charts, tables, graphs, and sidebars. This book provides readers with a solid foundation of knowledge about Israel and provides useful reference lists by topic for those inspired to read further.

These titles are available to order via or at your local highstreet bookshop. To read a free sample of three of our Middle East titles from last season, you can download our e-book, entitled Crisis in the Arab World.

Related Blogs on the Middle East

The Forgotten Palestinians (our June Book of the Month)

Holiday Reads: Dubai and Vietnam

Leila Ahmed visits the UK to promote her book on the Resurgence of the Muslim veil

Author Article by David Lesch: Shock in Syria

Stephen Chan on the Battle for Libya

Crisis in the Arab World: Free Download

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