Edited by: Youssef M. Choueiri
From the preface:
Middle Eastern history is a vast field that no single work can realistically aspire to cover in all its periods, themes, and major events. Bearing in mind that this area is credited with introducing for the first time in human culture a huge number of inventions, instruments, tools and methods of organization, deemed necessary for launching enduring forms of civilization, all historical investigation ought ideally to revisit the earliest glimmerings of the dawn of history itself. Such an investigation would have to take account of agriculture, city planning, regular armies, marketplaces, temples, alphabetical systems of writing, monotheism, the wheel, empire building, tyranny versus accountable government, mathematics, geometry, astronomy and epic poetry, to mention only the most obvious Middle Eastern contributions to ancient as well as modern culture.
Although works of considerable erudition, the result of either painstaking archaeological explorations or diligent reconstruction of documentary evidence, have over the last two centuries been published, edited and continually updated, fresh discoveries are constantly being made and new theories are periodically advanced to throw light on a particular era or some material remains. Consequently, Middle Eastern historiography, or writings on the Middle Eastern past, be they in the form of narratives or theoretical treatises based on primary sources, has by and large been
turned into an open field capable of receiving a steady stream of speculations and conjectures, without having to grapple with an ever-present threat of being swept away by the torrent of uncontrolled floodgates.
This volume was planned with all the above caveats, state-of-the-art contributions and latest scholarly efforts in mind. Our original plan, initially put forward by Tessa Harvey, Publisher of Blackwell History Division, was to produce a volume devoted to the modern history of the Middle East. However, further discussions and wider consultations with a number of colleagues convinced us to widen the scope of the historical treatment in order to offer a more solid analytical study of the formative and middle periods of Islam, on the one hand, and to allow readers and students to form a more informed judgement as to the continuities and ruptures in Middle Eastern historical development, on the other. I would like to thank in this respect the four anonymous readers who were first approached to offer their considered opinion on the feasibility of such a project as well as the need for its availability (…)
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