Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian

Notes on a Century: Reflections of a Middle East Historian

Bernard Lewis

Language: English

Pages: 400

ISBN: 0670023531

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The #1 New York Times bestselling author of What Went Wrong? tells the story of his extraordinary life

After September 11, Americans who had never given much thought to the Middle East turned to Bernard Lewis for an explanation, catapulting What Went Wrong? and later Crisis of Islam to become number one bestsellers. He was the first to warn of a coming "clash of civilizations," a term he coined in 1957, and has led an amazing life, as much a political actor as a scholar of the Middle East. In this witty memoir he reflects on the events that have transformed the region since World War II, up through the Arab Spring.

A pathbreaking scholar with command of a dozen languages, Lewis has advised American presidents and dined with politicians from the shah of Iran to the pope. Over the years, he had tea at Buckingham Palace, befriended Golda Meir, and briefed politicians from Ted Kennedy to Dick Cheney. No stranger to controversy, he pulls no punches in his blunt criticism of those who see him as the intellectual progenitor of the Iraq war. Like America’s other great historian-statesmen Arthur Schlesinger and Henry Kissinger, he is a figure of towering intellect and a world-class raconteur, which makes Notes on a Century essential reading for anyone who cares about the fate of the Middle East.

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that time the term “Turk,” like “Moor” and “Saracen” in earlier times, was used simply to designate Muslims. The raiders in question came from North Africa; many of them came originally from Christian Europe. In the Christian perspective they were renegades, in the Muslim perspective, converts to the true faith. I was able to read the Danish material without much difficulty. The Icelandic stuff was more of a problem but I managed to get the general sense. With this material I was able to write a

to go on a tour of the country, and provided with a car, driver and guide to do the honors. It was an interesting trip and I enjoyed it. In the course of the trip we came to a small town called ‘Ibri. That is the Arabic word for Hebrew and this struck me as a rather odd name for a town in southern Arabia. I asked how it came to have this name. My guide responded, “We believe that this was originally a Jewish settlement, but there are no Jews here now; it’s entirely Arab Muslim.” Then I asked the

Syria, at that time, was under French mandate, and the traditional Anglo-French rivalry and mutual suspicion were still alive and well in the Levant. It seems that the local French political officer heard of my visit, but did not believe that a dissertation on the medieval Isma‘ilis was the reason for my presence. He suspected that I was a British secret agent engaged in nefarious anti-French activities. The fact that my travel was funded by the Royal Asiatic Society only served to confirm his

career of their own. Normally, they chose the armed forces. Prince Mikasa, the younger brother of the Mikado of Japan, was different and chose the academy. More specifically, he chose the history and archaeology of the Middle East. He made a deep and extensive academic study of these and eventually was appointed professor at a Japanese college. I met him several times in the Middle East and was his guest on this visit for lunch at the Palace in Tokyo. My hosts arranged to take me on a trip into

Hebrew. They did however place great emphasis on Yiddish which they saw as the authentic language of the Jewish common people. My knowledge of Yiddish at that time was limited to a few odd words and phrases which still floated around in my family. Ada insisted on remedying what she saw as this basic defect and demanded that I learn Yiddish, not only to understand but also to read it. She therefore instructed me in the rules of Yiddish orthography, and provided me with a supply of literature in

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