Thursday, February 24, 2011

Middle East History Roundup

Ishaan Tharoor, "A History of Middle East Mercenaries," Time, February 23, 2011
. . . . Foreign warriors were valued by monarchs wary of their own restive populations and the rivalries and jealousies of local nobles. The great empires of the Middle East all boasted a rank of soldiers drawn (or abducted) from abroad. The Ottomans had the janissaries, mostly young Christians from the Caucasus and the Balkans, who converted to Islam and were reared from an early age to be the Sultan's elite household troops, often forming a powerful political class of their own in various parts of the empire. Elsewhere, the Mamluks, slave warriors from Africa to Central Asia forced into service by Arab potentates, managed to rule a large stretch of the modern Middle East from Egypt to Syria for some 300 years, repulsing the invasions of European crusaders as well as the Mongol hordes.>>>

John Melloy, "Middle East Mirrors Great Inflation Revolutions Since 1200 AD," CNBC, February 23, 2011
Inflation has led to political revolutions since Medieval times and we may be witnessing the fifth such great revolution in history unfolding in the Middle East and in our own country right now, said Dr. Ed Yardeni, president and chief investment strategist of Yardeni Research.

Yardeni cites the work of historian David Hackett Fischer, who described civilization’s first four major inflation cycles in his 1999 work The Great Wave: Price Revolutions and the Rhythm of History.>>>

"Different Meanings Of Democracy For West, Middle East," NPR, February 5, 2011
The chants, chaos and cries from the streets of Cairo and other cities in Egypt this week revive questions for historians and political scientists that politicians have to answer with practical policies. Host Scott Simon speaks with Dr. J. Rufus Fears, a historian and Classics scholar at the University of Oklahoma, about western concepts of democracy and the events now sweeping Egypt and the Middle East.>>>

Robert Darnton, "1789—2011?" NYRB blog, February 22, 2011
The question has come to haunt every article and broadcast from Egypt, Tunisia and other countries in the region whose people have revolted: what constitutes a revolution? In the 1970s, we used to chase that question in courses on comparative revolutions; and looking back on my ancient lecture notes, I can’t help but imagine a trajectory: England, 1640; France, 1789; Russia, 1917 … and Egypt, 2011?>>>

Ibrahim Al-Marashi, "The Arab World's Leadership Deficit," History and Policy (February 2011)
The Arabs have few victories to claim, going back a millennium, all the way to 1187 to celebrate a leader, Salah al-Din and his victory in Jerusalem during the Crusades. What remains after that date are only a few de facto victories. Victories defined in terms of survival. In 1956, when the Egyptian President Jamal Abdul Nasser lost a war against Britain, France and Israel, the Arabs claimed it a victory because he stood up to the 'West'. Even then, the highly popular Egyptian leader was feared among the elites in Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. When Saddam Hussein was soundly defeated by Coalition forces in the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi leader claimed it a victory because he stood up to the 'West' and survived.>>>

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