Middle East on the Eve of Modernity Book Report

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¶ … Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century

Abraham Marcus has written a book from which most American students would learn valuable information. It is hard to cover all of world history in an overview course because of the large span of time, but most world history courses focus on Western civilization. In his book, the Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Aleppo in the Eighteenth Century, the author shows us that the Middle East had a rich, varied and complex history that was well-established before their culture experienced modernization such as the effects of the Industrial Revolution.

This reader found surprises in every chapter. For instance, American students learn about the Crimean War and the Crusades from a Western perspective, and may tend to think of the people of the Middle East as fiercely patriotic and warlike, but Marcus explains that the citizens of Aleppo did not draft men into the army against their will. Overt expressions of patriotism were not required (p. 18).

Related to war with other countries, Marcus made the point that the area around Aleppo very often suffered indirectly from the many wars of the 18th century. While that was not surprising, he indicated that the citizens were more afraid of Arab armies than invaders (p. 23). This is explained later in the fact that the military often helped governmental powers collect taxes, sometimes using excessive force.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Book Report on Middle East on the Eve of Modernity: Assignment

Marcus' reports of the cultural diversity and complicated social structure were fascinating. Students with little knowledge of Middle East history might think that Arab society was relatively simple, ruled by tribal chieftains, but within Aleppo Marcus reveals a many-layered community. Social distinctions were important, and some of it seems to resemble today's tendency toward conspicuous consumerism in the United States. Wealth and status mattered, and one's neighbors were judged according to the clothes they wore, the value of their home, jewelry and other outward indications of relative wealth. (p. 50)

The main social determinants in Aleppo were one's religion and how wealthy one was. Religion was paramount: only Muslims could have real power, and Christian and Jews were second-class citizens in many ways. But while the stereotype seen today of the Middle East is of little or no tolerance of non-Muslim religions, Christian and Jews were important minorities in Aleppo. They were not isolated from the larger community. Muslims, Christians and Jews very often all lived in the same neighborhoods.

The legal system in Aleppo's society was well structured and complex. Distinctions were made within the legal system between Muslim and non-Muslim. Non-Muslims paid more taxes than Muslims and had other restrictions including clothing they could not wear. For part of this period, non-Christians were not allowed to ride horses. (p. 41). But interestingly, all citizens of Aleppo required their women to be well covered, not just Moslems, and all groups segregated according to sex.

Justice was swift in Aleppo, and sometimes complaints were heard in court the very day the complaint was first raised, or very shortly thereafter. Other justice-related issues sounded more… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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