An Arab Uprising List: History Would Be Useless If It Taught Us Nothing

Understanding the Arab uprisings takes more than day to day media reports or longer articles (or even, now, books) churched out in the heat of the struggle; it requires reflection on similar events elsewhere in history. Arab history and the histories of other peoples can help place these things in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere in perspective.

Below is a list of books of interest in this respect. It is not meant to be complete or comprehensive. They are in no particular order (obviously this is not an alphabetic list or timeline); the books are organized relatively thematically: (1) Books dealing with the Arab region and Iran; (2) Books dealing with world history and social phenomena; (3) Books dealing with Arab history in general. All of them are books in English or in translation.

Not all of these books deal relate to or deal explicitly with the Arab region: some of them have to do with world and European history (the revolutions of 1848, to which the Arab uprisings are often compared). Some of them deal with Marxist and communist history and perspectives, systems theory, social collapse and related subject matter. These are taken from books read by this blogger over time (before the winter uprising in Tunisia) for classes or leisure or the like and which have been revisited in part or in full since January. Leon Trotsky wrote: “history would be useless if it taught us nothing.” The basic consensus seems to be that history is useful  and does have something to teach us. These books are not all equal in prose, analysis, narrative or any other respect; but they are all useful in one or another way in trying to gain a bigger perspective on what is happening in the Arab world at the moment and some it has influenced other parts of the world. More books will follow eventually, with perhaps some French or Arabic ones which have relevance.

Set One

  1. Hanna Batatu:
    1. The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of Iraq. Saqi: 2004.
    2. Syria’s Peasantry, the Descendants of Its Lesser Rural Notables, and Their Politics. Saqi: 2000.
    3. The Egyptian, Syrian, and Iraqi Revolutions: Some Observations on Their Underlying Causes and Social Character. Georgetown Center for Contemporary Arab Studies. 1983.
  2. Robert Irwin. Dangerous Knowledge: Orientalism and its Discontents. Overlook. 2006.
  3. Ibrahim Abu-Rabi. Contemporary Arab Thought: Studies in Post-1967 Arab Intellectual History. Pluto. 2003.
  4. Halim Barakat. The Arab World: Society, Culture and State. University of California. 1993.
  5. Galal Amin.
    1. Whatever Happened to the Egyptians?: Changes in Egyptian Society from 1950 to the Present. The American University in Cairo Press. 2001.
    2. Egypt in the Era of Mubarak: 1981-2011. The American University in Cairo Press. 2011.
    3. The Illusion of Progress in the Arab World: A Critique of Western Misconstructions.  American University in Cairo Press. 2006.
  6. Asaf Bayat. Life as Politics: how Ordinary People Change the Middle East. Stanford University Press. 2009.
  7. Brian Whitaker. What’s Really Wrong with the Middle East. Saqi. 2009.
  8. Fred Halliday.
    1. Nation and Religion in the Middle East. Saqi. 2000.
    2. 100 Myths about the Middle East. University of California Press. 2005.
    3. Political Journeys: The openDemocracy Essays. Saqi. 2011.
    4. The Middle East in International Relations. Power, Politics and Ideology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  9. Ervand Abrahamian. Khomeinism: Essays on the Islamic Republic. University of California Press. 1993.
  10. Patrick Seale. Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East. University of California Press. 1990.
  11. Edward W. Said.
    1. Orientalism. Vintage. 1979.
    2. Covering Islam: How Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World. Vintage. 1997.
  12. Lisa Wedeen.
    1. Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria. University of Chicago Press. 1999.
    2. Peripheral Visions: Publics, Power, and Performance in Yemen. University of Chicago Press. 2008.
  13. Steffen Hertog. Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats: Oil and the State in Saudi Arabia. Cornell University Press. 2010.
  14. Fouad Zakariyya. Myth and Reality in the Contemporary Islamist Movement. Pluto. 2005.
  15. Elbaki Hermassi. Leadership and National Development in North Africa: A Comparative Study. University of California Press. 1972.
  16. William B. Quandt. Between Ballots and Bullets: Algeria’s Transition from Authoritarianism. Brookings Institution Press. 1998.
  17. Ricardo R. Laremont. Islam and the Politics of Resistance in Algeria, 1783-1992. Africa World Press. 2000.
  18. Faleh A. Jabar. Post-Marxism and the Middle East. Saqi. 2001.
  19. Samir and Roseanne Saad Khalaf. (Eds.) Arab Society and Culture: An Essential Guide. Saqi. 2010.
  20. Nir Rosen. Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of Americas Wars in the Muslim World. Nation Books. 2010.
  21. Nazih N. Ayubi. Over-stating the Arab State: Politics and Society in the Middle East. I. B. Taurus. 1996.
  22. Ruth First. Libya: The Elusive Revolution. Penguin. 1974.
  23. Dirk Vandewalle.
    1. A History of Modern Libya. Cambridge University Press. 2006.
    2. Libya Since Independence: Oil and State-Building. Cornell University Press. 1998.
  24. Luis Martinez.
    1. The Libyan Paradox. Columbia University Press. 2007.John Philips and Martin Evans. Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed. Yale University Press. 2008.
    2. The Algerian Civil War. Columbia University Press. 2000.
  25. Hugh Roberts. The Battlefield: Algeria 1988-2002, Studies in a Broken Polity. Verso. 2003.
  26. David and Marina Ottaway. Algeria: The Politics of a Socialist Revolution. University of California Press. 1970.
  27. Stephen J. King. The New Authoritarianism in the Middle East and North Africa. Indiana University Press. 2009.
  28. Isabelle Werenfels. Managing Instability in Algeria: Elites and Political Change since 1995. Routledge. 2007.
  29. Vali Nasr. Forces of Fortune: The Rise of the New Muslim Middle Class and What it Will Mean for Our world. Free Press. 2009.
  30. Michaelle L. Bowers. Political Ideology in the Arab World: Accommodation and Transformation. Cambridge University Press. 2009.
  31. Elizabeth S. Kassab. Contemporary Arab Thought: Cultural Critique in Comparative Perspective. Columbia University Press. 2009.
  32. Ilham Khuri-Makdisi. The Eastern Mediterranean and the Making of Global Radicalism, 1860-1914. University of California. 2010.

Set Two.

  1. Peter Turchin.
    1. War and Peace and War: The Rise and Fall of Empires. Plume. 2007.
    2. Secular Cycles. Princeton University Press. 2009.
    3. Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall. Princeton University Press. 2003.
  2. Leon Trotsky. The Russian Revolution: The Overthrow of Tzarism and the Triumph of the Soviets. Ed. by F.W. Dupee. Doubleday. 1959.
  3. Barrington Moore, Jr. Injustice: the Social Bases of Obedience and Revolt. Sharpe: 1978.
  4. Theda Skocpol. States and Social Revolution: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia and China. Cambridge University Press. 1979.
  5. Saulk K. Padover. Karl Marx on Revolution. McGraw Hill. 1971.
  6. Sallust. Catiline’s War, The Jugurthine War, Histories. Trans. A.J. Woodman. Penguin. 2007.
  7. Lewis Namier. 1848: The Revolution of the Intellectuals. Oxford University Press. 1992.
  8. Annah Arendt. On Revolution. Penguin. 2006.
  9. Priscilla Robertson. Revolutions of 1848: A Social History. 1971.
  10. Jonathan Sperber. The European Revolutions, 1848-1851. Cambridge University Press. 2005.
  11. Karl Marx.
    1. The Revolutions of 1848: Political Writings (Vol. 1, Marx’s Political Writings). Verso. 2010.
    2. The Eighteenth Brumaire Of Louis Bonaparte. International Publishers. 1963.
  12. Aristole. The Politics. (Trans. Malcolm Heath). Penguin. 1997. Or:
    1. Aristotle: The Politics and the Constitution of Athens. Trans. Stephen Everson. Cambridge University Press. 1996.
  13. Azar Gat. War in Human Civilization. Oxford University Press. 2008.
  14. Joseph A. Tainter. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press. 1988.
  15. Francis Fukuyama.
    1. The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2011.
    2. The End of History and the Last Man. Perennial. 1992.
  16. Fernand Braudel.
    1. Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century, Vols. I-3. University of California Press. 1992.
    2. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Vols. I-3. University of California Press. 1996.
    3. A History of Civilizations. Penguin. 1995.
  17. Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. Random House. 2007.
  18. Samuel Huntington.
    1. The Soldier and the State: The Theory and Politics of Civil-Military Relations. Belknap Press. 1957.
    2. Political Order in Changing Societies. Yale University Press. 1968.

Set Three

  1. Maxime Rodinson.
    1. Islam and Capitalism. Saqi. 2007.
    2. Muhammad. New Press. 2002.
    3. The Arabs. University of Chicago Press. 2002.
  2. Philip K. Hitti. History of the Arabs. 10th edition. Palgrave Macmillan. 2002.
  3. Albert Hourani.
    1. A History of the Arab Peoples. Warner. 1992.
    2. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, 1798-1939. Cambridge University Press. 1983.
  4. Ira Lapidus. A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge University Press. 2002.
  5. Ibn Khaldun. The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History. Princeton University Press. 2004.
  6. Marshall Hodgson. The Venture of Islam, Vols. I-3. University of Chicago Press. 1977.

6 thoughts on “An Arab Uprising List: History Would Be Useless If It Taught Us Nothing

  1. I will say that these are interesting. Could I recommend Slater’s ‘Ordering Power’* and Horne’s ‘A Savage War of Peace’?

    *Not related to the Middle East, but it does show some of the essentials for revolutions or reforms to succeed.

  2. Hello / Salut / Ahlan

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  3. You could certainly see your expertise in the paintings you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers like you who aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. At all times follow your heart.

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