?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Historians at the End of History

Been reading some articles about prominent historians and the Iraq War.

Professor Bernhard Lewis is an influential historian of Islam and the Middle East. He began his career with the study of medieval Arab history but after the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, he found himself barred from Arab countries and unable conduct archival and field research due to his Jewish origins. He switched to Turkey, where he studied the Ottoman Empire and Arab history, using the Ottoman archives. The Turkish Ottoman Empire ruled must of the Arab world for several centuries until its breakup after the Great War. In the 1920s, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk - the father of the Turks) transformed Turkey into a secular republic. Professor Lewis found much to admire in modern Turkey in the efforts of this Islamic country to bevcome part of the West.

In more recent times, Lewis has been a a critic of the Arab world's failure to keep up with the West, which he attributes to cultural arrogance in such works as The Muslim Discovery of Europe (1982) and What Went Wrong? : The Clash Between Islam and Modernity in the Middle East (2002). Lewis was a key figure in the decision to invade Iraq.

Here's a great article summarising the thinking behind the Iraq War.


Professor Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian specialising in Ancient Greece. I was blown away by The Western Way of War (1989), which is a remarkable work on warfare in Ancient Greece.

Hanson believes that the military strength of the Western World lies in its values - democracy, capitalism, individualism, scientific inquiry, rationalism and open debate. He rejects environmentalist notions such as those put advocated by Professor Jared Diamond (professor of Geography and of Environmental Health Sciences) in Guns Germs and Steel (1997).

However, while I have the greatest admiration for his works on ancient history, this 20th Century military sees little value in what he writes about later periods and it seems I'm not alone.

Here's another great article another another great historian in a lot of hot water over Iraq.

Tags: