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Arabs
Cover of Arabs
Arabs
A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires
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A riveting, comprehensive history of the Arab peoples and tribes that explores the role of language as a cultural touchstone

This kaleidoscopic book covers almost 3,000 years of Arab history and shines a light on the footloose Arab peoples and tribes who conquered lands and disseminated their language and culture over vast distances. Tracing this process to the origins of the Arabic language, rather than the advent of Islam, Tim Mackintosh-Smith begins his narrative more than a thousand years before Muhammad and focuses on how Arabic, both spoken and written, has functioned as a vital source of shared cultural identity over the millennia.

Mackintosh-Smith reveals how linguistic developments—from pre-Islamic poetry to the growth of script, Muhammad's use of writing, and the later problems of printing Arabic—have helped and hindered the progress of Arab history, and investigates how, even in today's politically fractured post–Arab Spring environment, Arabic itself is still a source of unity and disunity.

A riveting, comprehensive history of the Arab peoples and tribes that explores the role of language as a cultural touchstone

This kaleidoscopic book covers almost 3,000 years of Arab history and shines a light on the footloose Arab peoples and tribes who conquered lands and disseminated their language and culture over vast distances. Tracing this process to the origins of the Arabic language, rather than the advent of Islam, Tim Mackintosh-Smith begins his narrative more than a thousand years before Muhammad and focuses on how Arabic, both spoken and written, has functioned as a vital source of shared cultural identity over the millennia.

Mackintosh-Smith reveals how linguistic developments—from pre-Islamic poetry to the growth of script, Muhammad's use of writing, and the later problems of printing Arabic—have helped and hindered the progress of Arab history, and investigates how, even in today's politically fractured post–Arab Spring environment, Arabic itself is still a source of unity and disunity.

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About the Author-
  • Tim Mackintosh-Smith is an eminent Arabist, translator, and traveler whose previous publications include Travels with a Tangerine and Yemen. He has lived in the Arab world for thirty-five years and is a senior fellow of the Library of Arabic Literature.

Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    Starred review from March 15, 2019
    An engaging history of the Arab world by a Yemen-based Westerner thoroughly versed in Arabic.One clarifying theme runs throughout this extensive, illuminating narrative of the Arab people from ancient to modern times: language. Long before the writing of the Quran, the language that "evolved on the tongues of tribal soothsayers and poets...has long, perhaps always, been the catalyst of a larger Arab identity." Arabist and translator Mackintosh-Smith (Yemen: The Unknown Arabia, 2014, etc.), a senior fellow at the Library of Arabic Literature who has lived in the Arab world for 35 years, structures his study around "three waves of unity" in Arab history that originated from the "momentum of 'arabbiyyah, the high language par excellence." These included the slow, ancient tribal agitation of self-awareness; the "tsunami" of conquest inspired by Muhammad's Quranic recitations; and the 19th-century nationalism awakened by Napoleon's conquest. "That last wave," writes the author, "is still breaking now." Throughout this impressive book, Mackintosh-Smith grapples with coexisting "rationalities" of Arab history: the "settled" society, or the civil polity where people lived together in a town; and the Bedouin or nomadic tradition. The rugged, dry terrain and lack of fresh water kept the people of the Arabian subcontinent in perpetual mobility (another theme) and imparted the masterful pairing of two beasts of burden--the camel and horse--that enabled the Arabs' transformation from "plodding hauliers into dashing warriors." The author demonstrates the power of rhetoric by the orator-leaders who "gathered the word"--of the people, recorded battles, etc.--even before Muhammad channeled that energy in disciplined Quranic teaching and embarked on his state-building years in Medina. Over the course of an extensive, consistently fascinating history, Mackintosh-Smith expertly picks and chooses his details and analyses, providing an admirably complete picture of a consistently misunderstood part of world history and culture. In addition to illustrations and maps, the author includes a useful chronology delineating both "events" and elements of "language, culture, society, identity."A marvelous journey brimming with adventure and poetry and narrated by a keen, compassionate observer.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Arabs
Arabs
A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires
Tim Mackintosh-Smith
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