The Urban Social History of the Middle East, 1750–1950 is an ambitious attempt to write a comprehensive account of 200 years of Middle East history from a social history perspective.
If one looks today at a satellite image of Manama (1), the capital city of Bahrain, the picture of the extended urban conurbation which covers both the north of the main island and the little island which faces it (Muharraq, the former capital of the emirate in the 19th century) is rather different from the ‘Islands of Paradise’ featured in the Sumerian Gilgamesh epic
In modern Ottoman and Balkan history as in other fields, biographical studies have enjoyed a rather mixed fortune.
The Ottoman Empire, over the course of its existence, evolved a cultural synthesis of strands coming from its Arab, Persian and Byzantine antecedents, as well as the folk culture of its constituent populations. Culinary traditions were part of this legacy, and the taste for sweets an ever popular and refined element, constituting a repertoire extending into modern Turkey and the Middle East.
The last century and a half of Ottoman history was marked by forced displacement into the empire on a huge scale. Between the Russian conquest of the Crimea in 1783 and the second Balkan war in 1913, five to seven million Muslims entered the Ottoman domains. Some were already subjects of the Sultan, leaving – or expelled from – areas that had broken away from the empire under Christian rule.
Crossing the Bay of Bengal, came out at a time when I had just begun to explore another history of the Bay through my research into the experiences of Bengali refugees who were rehabilitated in the Andaman Islands in the years between 1949 and 1971.(1) Hounded by the violence and brutality of the post -partition riots that ravaged the deltaic
It was more than 30 years ago when Albert Hourani pointed to the common Ottoman lineages of the Arab political elite active in the inter-war Middle East. ‘They had been at school together in Istanbul’, he noted.