• A History of the Arab Peoples

  • By: Albert Hourani
  • Narrated by: Nadia May
  • Length: 21 hrs and 3 mins
  • 3.5 out of 5 stars (327 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Despite the turmoil of Arab nationalism and fundamentalism, Middle Eastern wars, and oil crises, the history of the Arab world has been little known and poorly understood in the West. One reason may be that, for more than half a century, there has been no up-to-date single volume work that chronicles the story of Arab civilization - until now. Albert Hourani, distinguished historian and interpreter, has written a masterwork, a panoramic view encompassing twelve centuries of Arab history and culture. He looks at all sides of this rich and venerable civilization: the beauty of the Alhambra and the great mosques, the importance attached to education, the achievements of Arab science - but also internal conflicts, wide-spread poverty, the role of women, and the contemporary Palestinian question.
(P)2000 Blackstone Audiobooks, Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about A History of the Arab Peoples

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Daunting quantity of information!

You will definitely get your money's worth with this one! There is a tremendous amount of information here - a complete history of a people and a world religion.

One reason this is a good buy it that it merits more than one listen. After getting through the book once, one cannot help but gain the ability to absorb more detail on a second read.

Some of the highlights: (1) The description of the life of Muhammad, (2) The explanation of the divergence of Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam, (3) The discussion of the Sufi branch of Islam (4) The rise and fall of the influence of the Islamic world over history, (5) The Ottoman empire, and (6) How the current nations of the Middle East came to be.

Although much longer, this book was light years better than "Islam: A Short Introduction".

The only downside to the book was trying to juggle all of the Middle Eastern names, which can be difficult. Although not a "downside" in the traditional sense, I did feel that the author may have shown some bias in describing some of the Arab/Israeli conflicts of the past century.

All in all - very highly recommended. Definitely something worthy of multiple listens.

65 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

A People's History, not a State's

First off let me say that going into this book I did not have a really good understanding of Arab or Muslim culture. Now that I'm done I feel like I got a really good basis with which to understand these cultures.

This book doesn't explain in-depth the rise and fall of specific governments and nations, but rather details and profiles the peoples that populated them. It dives into the religious and social development in the Muslim countries. At this point I feel like I need to read a lot more books on more specific histories.

My only real critique of this book is that it's hard to keep all of the terminology straight in my head (Thank goodness for Wikipedia). It was really easy to zone out to this audiobook. The way it was written made it hard to pick back up and figure out what had been going on.

Probably the biggest plus of this book is that it doesn't feel like it's written from a western perspective. I would highly recommend this book as a good dive-in immersion experience.

17 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Thorough but not riveting

Albert Hourani was recommended by my Arabic instructor as being reputable in both the Arab and Western Worlds. This exhaustive work is not for the casual student. You must have a keen interest in Arabic history and be willing to listen to a text book style read. I will most likely purchase the printed version to add it to my personal library. I would recommend listening to the works of Bernard Lewis first. They are much easier to digest. For a more biased, but not necessarily untrue perspective, check out the works of Robert Spencer.

14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Informative but dry and dryly read

The reader unfortunately matches the somber, dry and somewhat tedious and encyclopedic approach to the subject developed by the author. Nevertheless, the interesting and important subject and the scholarship of the author make the book worth listening to, at least until a better introduction to the subject comes along.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

Partial and limited

Mr. Hourani, does the arab peoples a disservice by placing their origen at the 7th century. A rich and distant heritage should not be ignored. This book would be more aptly titled A History of the Islamic Faith. It is shallow and without the slightest color attributed to its cover. Mostly a long disertation on lineage of leadership. Difficult to get excited about.

11 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Great Content, Balance, but Terrible organization

Its hard not to approach Middle East studies without one bias or another, but after finishing A Concisce History of the Middle East and other titles that appeared to (forgive my bluntness) give an Islamic fundamentalist version of events in the Arab world, I was overjoyed to hear the more balanced treatment of the subject by Mr. Hourani. For example, Mr. Hourani gives us differing versions of stories surrounding the prophet's early angelic visitation, explains why many Hadiths may not be reliable accounts of Muhammads life and explores the probable links between Sufism and Eastern monasticism. All aspects that many Middle East hitories simply ignore. More importantly, the Author's ability to tie individual life stories from all over the Muslim world into the larger historical narrative made the sory so much more personable.

While the incredible amount of information and fair perspective provided in this historical account put it far above many other availiable titles, the general organization of this book leaves much to be desired. In many chapters, the narrative without warning jumps between historical events, geographical elements, sociological analysis and philosophical discourse. I often found it almost impossible to stay involved as within 10 minutes the narrative switched from Algerian architecture to politics in Tunisia Lybia, and then morroco. This is something that A Concise history of the Middle East does much better.
Nadia May gives a generally good narration, but it seems she caught a cold sometime during the production.

In conclusion this is a book that requires several listens and probably a few other supplemental audiobooks on Middle East history to really understand. I think its worth the effort, but I wish the information was better organized.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

inadequate substance

It is a bad book.

I bought this tape in the hope of hearing what actually "happened" in the history of Arabic people. Instead, the author spends majority of time on what various Arabic figures had "said" / "written" on a number of issues, and most of those Arabic people quotations / opinions are to the effect of depicting an idealized good society. Aha, but that is NOT what had happened at ground level, and the author did not talk about what had happened anyway.

This is probably another example of that their deed does not match up to their talk.

A waste of my hard earned money, as well as the genuin curiosity of a student from China.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Admirable breadth

The book offers an admirable sweep of the Arab world's history. Slightly academic in style, and thus a little dense, but, nevertheless, well worth the listen. The text offers an overall positive outlook of the Arab peoples' accomplishments through the centuries - critics may argue: "respectable, but a little too positive." Judge for yourself.

8 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

A History of the Arab Peoples

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

I was hoping to get a better understanding of the subject matter but was thwarted by stuttering audio, loss of sync, and otherwise corrupted file decompression.

Would you ever listen to anything by Albert Hourani again?

Not if the file is at the same level of corruption...

What didn’t you like about Nadia May’s performance?

Couldn't finish any chapters due to file loss, even after repeated downloads...

Any additional comments?

I'm thinking that i should request a refund for the book as I haven't been able to reload a good copy even after a few months.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Dull

The reader does the best she can with the material, but it is as if she were reading a textbook. As far as the material is concerned, it presumes that the listener will be familiar with places and naming conventions based on a brief disclaimer in the preface. I really wanted to finish this book, but only got about half way through the second part of the three part download before giving up.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Samuel
  • 11-23-06

A History that should have been abridged!

This is one of the dullest most turgid works of history that I have yet come across. How many times the reader, Nadia May, must have fallen asleep I don?t know!

The author has taken out too large a canvass for his work; he lacks the judgement to distinguish the detail that may be of interest a lay audience or perhaps the nature of this work did not lend itself to any audience but an academic one?

Not for the general reader.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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  • Asma
  • 03-25-07

Language, please!

Nadia May was a bad choice. The book which a popular one (and the topic most interesting) was made boring and even somewhat confusing. The narrator should have had a better grasp of Arabic, at the least, as there is no shortage of Arab speakers with native English language proficiency!!

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Patrick
  • 02-17-11

hourani's masterpiece

Great book, sympathetically read.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Manish
  • 01-08-19

Arab History

Whilst I enjoyed this book I have a few issues on it's focus. 40% of this book focused on history after 1900 ie WW1 and WW2 as well as the history of the cold war in the Middle East. I had hoped more on the rise and spread of Islam as well as the Sunni and Shia schism and the spread of the various sects eg Wahabis and others. There was also very little on the Crusaders or how important this area was in the Middle Ages where Baghdad was practically the centre of the world and a high point of enlightenment at the time.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Kbro
  • 02-04-17

A good thought provoking history

The one thing I dislike about this excellent history is that it equates Arab with Muslim. This is a great read for a history of Islam and the Islamic peoples and powers. But, while it makes regular mention of non-muslims, and overviews how the groups related, the history begins with the birth of Islam. Nessisarily, a huge part of the political and cultural makeup of the region is excluded to allow a detailed discussion of Islamic history. I missed this information at several points though.

I began this book because I felt I lacked a great deal of knowledge regarding the cultural history that makes this area so important in political life today. As a lay person, it was at some points overly detailed for my needs, but it remained interesting and thought provoking.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • paul
  • 08-31-14

Disappointing

a bit stiff for me - little colour or added value analysis - juts a linear history read in a dour tone with author careful not to challenge any sensitivities

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Edmund
  • 11-09-12

Comprehensive, easy-to understand

This text really did cover all possible bases. I was particularly impressed with how it managed to convey a picture of life for ALL kinds of Arab peoples. In terms of the recording, the text probably doesn't translate that well to audio, which is why some negative reviews seem to have emerged. I thought, however, that the reader did a perfect job of animating complex language in a very listenable way.

1 person found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • jenatkin
  • 04-27-20

More like a university thesis

We listen to a lot of history books but we have really struggled with this one. It is read more like a list of events than a flowing story, there's little dialogue to link the facts together. The little that there is presumes pre knowledge, using lots of throw away comments about things I've simply never heard of. Therefore the amount of information, coupled with lack of knowledge means it's just too hard going. My head explodes after 5 mins. The narration is also heavy and forceful. I've fought with the book several times and each time lost - I just can't get into it. Real pity as I was looking forward to it.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Hassan K
  • 05-01-19

A good read

A detailed review of Arab history, culture and politics. I found the book enlightining. However I also found it dry and hard to follow (to keep engaged), particularly in in the middle chapters. I would have liked more critical analyses of the historic events. Still a good book though.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Dr L Derweesh
  • 08-20-22

Narrator ruined it for me

Terrible narrator, dry and dull, mangles all the Arabic words and reads quotes in some sort of weird invented mock 'Oriental' accent. I dont think I can get through 20 hours of her. Shame, book could have been interesting.