Race and Slavery in the Middle East, by Bernard Lewis
Several features combine to make Bernard Lewis an exceptionally distinguished historian of the Middle Eastern world. First of all, he writes a poised and indeed classical prose which is accessible to the general reader. Not too deep below the surface is that fully imagined sense of the human comedy with its ironies and paradoxes, without which history must remain a matter for specialists or cause-mongers. Secondly, familiar with all the major languages and literatures of the Middle East, he knows most of those of Europe too, his references extending into Russian, Polish, and Hungarian. Finally, his sympathies for Turks, Persians, Arabs, and Jews encourage him to tell the truth about them, the bad with the good. In this field, those who prefer reality to myth are few.
In The Emergence of Modern Turkey (1961), Lewis depicted in rich detail the complex process whereby the pre-1914 Ottoman state became Turkey as it is today, without an empire, but the first Muslim country in the Middle East to have held a free election. Modernization, Lewis showed, might be compatible with the preservation of Turkish identity and much else that was valuable in its heritage. But the end results of this modernization would depend on the kind of accommodation that Turkish society could reach with the West.
About the Author
David Pryce-Jones, the British novelist and political analyst, is the author of, among other books, Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews (Encounter).