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Arabs:  Self-Identity and Foreign Views
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Peter Mansfield
The Arabs (London:  Penguin, 1992.  557p.)

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Mansfield presents a country-by-country survey of all the Arab peoples of the world.  Mansfield is a historian and journalist bringing 30 years of field experience to this work.

Note that Mansfield is focusing on Arab peoples, not all Islamic peoples of the world.  However, in this process, he also includes a perspective on the relationship of the Arab countries and Islamic movements to non-Arab Islamic peoples and sects.

His analysis helps clarify how various Islamic movements have dealt with the challenges relating to modernization, technology and the modern world political system.  As part of this process, he discusses the causes and results of the 1990 Gulf War.

I bought this book in December 2000 while living in Nicosia, Cyprus, virtually on the scene of important events in Northern Africa and the Middle East.  I read portions of the books for reference over the years 2000-2006.  I comprehensively reread the whole book in April 2006, for a thoroughly enjoyable, refreshing focus on the topic.  This technically competent and thoroughly detailed work is still very readable and informative.

This able author looks at the data in different ways, providing a multi-faceted view.  He provides a historical focus, which helps to understand how we got where we are.  Filling in many details often missed in the somewhat abstract chronologies we expect, Mansfield includes here an analysis by country.

This brings to life the individual situations that are often ignored when the stock western political analysis refers to the "Arab World."  As you read Mansfield's discussion of each country, you realize these are people like everyone else, trying to make sense of the puzzling forces and situations in which they are caught up.  Real life rarely matches the simple back and white of political rhetoric and media sound bites.

Extremely insightful is a third view in which Mansfield compares self-views of the various Arab peoples and the view of them by foreigners.  Readers will find this book an enriching experience.

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First reading notes written 29 April 2006
Expanded and posted on Amazon 12 February 2009
Further developed and posted on OJTR 23 February 2009
Last edited 7 January 2013

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2009 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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