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The Struggle for Arab Independence

The Struggle for Arab Independence
Riad el-Solh and the Makers of the Modern Middle East


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  • Date Published: March 2010
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9780521191371


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About the Authors
  • The Middle East, as we know it today, was shaped in the violent and tumultuous years of the first half of the 20th century. The roots of many of the conflicts and crises which afflict the region today can be traced back to this period of wars, high drama and the cavalier re-drawing of maps. Patrick Seale, a leading historian of the region, tells the story of the making of the modern Middle East through the life of Riad el-Solh, a Lebanese politician who grew into the outstanding Arab statesman of his time. Based on British and French archives, and on numerous interviews, the book pieces together the history of the Arab struggle for independence through the lives of those most directly involved. It is an invaluable resource for students and researchers, and of compelling interest to anyone who wants to know more about the Middle East.

    • Explains how the defeat and break-up of the Ottoman Empire led to the emergence of the Middle East as we know it today
    • Includes more than fifty photographs to illustrate the life and times of Riad el-Solh
    • The detail and anecdotes in the book give a feel of how Arab politics was actually lived
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    • Winner of the 2010 BRISMES Award (British Institute for Middle East Studies)

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Patrick Seale tells the story of the making of the modern Middle East through the life of Riad el-Solh, a Lebanese politician who grew into the outstanding Arab statesman of his time. Based on British and French archives, and on numerous interviews, the book pieces together the history of the Arab struggle for independence through the lives of those most directly involved.' The Middle East

    'With the publication of The Struggle for Arab Independence, Patrick Seale has completed his magisterial overview of the rise, the frustrations, and the eventual waning of Arab nationalism in the twentieth century. Here the focus is on Lebanese leader Riad al-Solh, but there is so much more: the ambivalence of early Arab leaders about their identities, the machinations of the colonial powers, the petty rivalries and the lofty visions. This is a portrait of the Middle East in an earlier era, but with profound lessons for the present day.' William B. Quandt, University of Virginia

    'Patrick Seale's book is not only a wonderfully rich biography of the prominent pan-Arab statesman Riad el-Solh, it is also an outstanding contribution to our knowledge of Arab nationalism. Marrying scientific rigour with an attractive narrative style, it is without doubt one of the best accounts yet published of the complex reality of the Middle East in the first half of the [twentieth] century.' Bertrand Badie, University Professor, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris

    'Clearly under the spell of his subject, Patrick Seale's truly epic tale - the result of daring, of travel and of numerous meetings - rests also on an impressive body of research. His history is one of a region in full mutation, a period rich in passionate debates fed by a flourishing press and by extravagant hopes, many of which were shortly to be disappointed …' Gilles Paris, Le Monde

    'A British view of French policy in Syria and Lebanon must necessarily be searing. As a writer and journalist sensitive to the aspirations of Arab nationalism, Patrick Seale gives us his account of the years when the dream was shattered … Unlike other books on this subject, his research in Ottoman, British and French archives is focused on the life of Riad el-Solh, a now little known nationalist leader … Seale's highly documented fresco also examines in depth the events which led to the birth of Israel and throws light on British policy in the region …' Jean-Christophe Floquin, La Croix

    'Patrick Seale is one of those all too rare authors who has benefited from an exceptional journalistic career as well as from rigorous academic training … In order to describe the great upheavals of the first half of the last century, he has chosen to follow the commitments and career of Riad el-Solh (1894–1951) the first prime minister of independent Lebanon in 1943 and the Muslim architect of the 'National Pact', which he concluded with the Christian community of the country … The author provides a mass of precious and moving detail, without ever losing the threat of his narrative or of the torment endured by the region …' Jean-Pierre Filiu, Commentaire (journal of Sciences Po)

    '… Patrick Seale's book is much more than a simple biography of a leading figure of Lebanon's contemporary history. It is a fresco which traces the evolution of the Middle East, from the period when the Ottoman Empire was in decline under Sultan Abdulhamid, to the emergence of the Young Turks, to Franco-British rivalry in the Levant, and to the creation of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war of 1948. The work can almost be consulted as a dictionary, which contains almost all the information one might need to understand the history of this region over more than a century …' Guillemette Crouzet, Le portail des livres

    'This large volume can be read at one spell. Well written and well-structured, every element in it is of interest. Patrick Seale admires his subject and evidently feels sympathy for him, which he communicates to the reader. The period he describes was crucial for the Middle East in general and for Lebanon in particular … A chronology, maps and a detailed bibliography all contribute to making this a work of reference.' Jacques Langlade, Etudes

    'Riad el-Solh was one of the most striking Arab personalities of the [twentieth] century. His public life was so intensely tied to the tormented collective destinies of the period that it may be seen as a metaphor for it. In exploring his remarkable life, Patrick Seale, a historian and journalist, has relied on extensive documentary sources into order to immerse himself in the dense historical context of the period …' Rudolf El-Kareh, Le Monde Diplomatique

    'More than a biography in the narrow sense of the word, the reader is drawn to examine the turbulent origins of the modern Middle East … Like Seale's earlier works - richly detailed, analytical and brilliantly written - this work is essential for an understanding of Middle East conflicts. Written in English, but translated into French and Arabic, it can be read in a single impulse, like a novel full of suspense and surprise …' Majed Nehmé, Afrique Asie

    'This 730-page book reads more like a gripping novel, with its protagonist carrying the tale from start to finish. In addition to plotting the course of how myriad Arab provinces came to become the rigid collection of states that we today call the Middle East, Seale also chronicles the life of Lebanon's prodigal, yet perhaps most important, son: Riad el-Solh. The life of Lebanon's first prime minister is recounted from the days of his grandfather Ahmad to his untimely death in Amman in 1951 …' Sami Halabi, Executive Magazine

    'This is history in the grand style, written with sweep, verve and texture, reaching back and retrieving relevance for the present.' David Gardner, Financial Times

    '… an invaluable source for students and researchers, and of compelling interest to anyone who wants to know more about the Middle East.' The Muslim World Book Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: March 2010
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9780521191371
    • length: 820 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 160 x 44 mm
    • weight: 1.42kg
    • contains: 57 b/w illus. 6 maps
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Grandee of the empire
    2. An Ottoman childhood
    3. Education in revolution
    4. In the shadow of the gallows
    5. Faysal's false dawn
    6. Fugitive from the French
    7. The great Syrian revolution
    8. A hero's return
    9. Man of the people
    10. Riad el-Solh, Zionism and the Hajj Amin al-Husayni
    11. Ben Gurion and the Arabs
    12. The making of a Lebanese patriot
    13. Competing identities: the battle for men's minds
    14. The politics of the street
    15. The changing fortunes of war
    16. Rashid 'Ali and 'Operation Exporter'
    17. Riad Bey and general spears
    18. The electoral challenge
    19. The compromise of the national pact
    20. The decisive battle
    21. Painful awakening
    22. Goodbye to the French
    23. Master of the local scene
    24. The unwanted war
    25. The challenge from the revolutionaries
    26. Murder in Amman.

  • Author

    Patrick Seale
    Patrick Seale worked for Reuters news agency for six years and for more than a dozen years on the staff of The Observer as Middle East correspondent, Paris correspondent, and roving correspondent in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. He currently runs a consultancy on Middle East affairs. He has written extensively on the Middle East and his other books include Asad: The Struggle for the Middle East (1998, 1992) and Abu Nidal: A Gun for Hire (1992).


    • Winner of the 2010 BRISMES Award (British Institute for Middle East Studies)

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