Emergence of the Modern Middle East by Albert Hourani

By Albert Hourani

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Owen . It is a commonplace that we cut up history into ~riods at our peril: the anificial frontiers made for convenience may seem to be real , and a new generation of historians will have to spend time removing them. Nevertheless, to think we must distinguish, and the best we can do is to try to make divisions which reveal something imponant about the process we are studying. The old division of history in terms of states and dynasties was not without its value; the imposition for example of Ottoman rule on the western part of the Muslim world was an event of great importance, however we look at it.

Regally, and romanticism cast the shadow of the observer's own temperament across what he was supposed to be observing. We ngntea IT na 38 The Emergence of the Modem Middle East refer rather to the reports of European diplomats and consuls, and also of Europeans in the Ottoman or Egyptian service. In this JXriod they contain evidence of more direct importance than before for both political and economic history (although rarely for the history of thought). Even a serious and well-informed ambassador, in the seventeenth century, found it difficult (0 know what was really going on in the saray.

VI How far are such features as we have described, in the city as human community and as physical entity, peculiar to the Muslim world, and how far are they to be explained in terms of Islam? BOlh Cahen and Aubin warn us that it is more correct to talk of cities in dar ai-islam than or Islamic cities. ~3 Even some of the features which seem to be peculiar to the city in dar ai-islam may not be due to Islam as a religion. Ought we, for example, to explain that special balance between military elite and bourgeoisie, between authority and rebellion, by the Islamic theory of politics?

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