Jeremy Adelman’s “Worldly Philosopher” One of Financial Times Econ Books of 2013

Jeremy Adelman – Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman
One of Financial Times (Alphachat)’s Econ Books of the Year for 2013

Diane Coyle and Tyler Cowen of Alphachat, a podcast of Financial Times Alphaville, listed their top picks for economic books published in 2013. They both placed Worldly Philosopher:The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman at the top of their lists of five books.

Worldly PhilosopherWorldly Philosopher chronicles the times and writings of Albert O. Hirschman, one of the twentieth century’s most original and provocative thinkers. In this gripping biography, Jeremy Adelman tells the story of a man shaped by modern horrors and hopes, a worldly intellectual who fought for and wrote in defense of the values of tolerance and change.

Born in Berlin in 1915, Hirschman grew up amid the promise and turmoil of the Weimar era, but fled Germany when the Nazis seized power in 1933. Amid hardship and personal tragedy, he volunteered to fight against the fascists in Spain and helped many of Europe’s leading artists and intellectuals escape to America after France fell to Hitler. His intellectual career led him to Paris, London, and Trieste, and to academic appointments at Columbia, Harvard, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He was an influential adviser to governments in the United States, Latin America, and Europe, as well as major foundations and the World Bank. Along the way, he wrote some of the most innovative and important books in economics, the social sciences, and the history of ideas.

Throughout, he remained committed to his belief that reform is possible, even in the darkest of times.

This is the first major account of Hirschman’s remarkable life, and a tale of the twentieth century as seen through the story of an astute and passionate observer. Adelman’s riveting narrative traces how Hirschman’s personal experiences shaped his unique intellectual perspective, and how his enduring legacy is one of hope, open-mindedness, and practical idealism.

Jeremy Adelman is the Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor of Spanish Civilization and Culture and director of the Council for International Teaching and Research at Princeton University. His books include Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World and Sovereignty and Revolution in the Iberian Atlantic (Princeton)

Angela E. Stent Interviews with TVO About “The Limits of Partnership”

The conflict in Syria has strained an already tenuous relationship between the United States and Russia. The Story of the Week over at TVO: the US and Russian clash over what to do about Syria.

Angela E. Stent, a professor of government and foreign service and director of the Center for Eurasian, Russian, and East European Studies at Georgetown University, weighs in on the conflict. Her recent book, The Limits of Partnership: U.S.-Russian Relations in the Twenty-First Century, makes her an expert on the topic.

FINANCIAL TIMES/GOLDMAN SACHS: The Great Escape is longlisted for the 2013 Business Book of the Year Award

ANGUS DEATON - The Great Escape:
Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality

Longlisted for the 2013 Business Book of the Year Award, Financial Times/Goldman Sachs

Angus Deaton’s The Great Escape traces advances in wealth and health that offer hope of an exit from historic human inequality.

Committee statement about the award:

“This annual Award, promoted by the Financial Times Limited (“FT”) and the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc (“GS”), aims to identify the book that provides the most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues, including management, finance and economics. The winner will receive an award of £30,000, and shortlisted authors will receive £10,000 each. A shortlist of up to 6 titles will be announced in early autumn, and the winner will be announced at an Award Dinner in London in November 2013 (the “Award Ceremony”). Submissions are invited from publishers or bona fide imprints based in any country (“Publishers”).”–Financial Times

Learn more about the 2013 Business Book of the Year Award on the Financial Times website: FT.com PDF

The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality by Angus DeatonThe world is a better place than it used to be. People are wealthier and healthier, and live longer lives. Yet the escapes from destitution by so many have left gaping inequalities between people and between nations. In The Great Escape, Angus Deaton–one of the foremost experts on economic development and on poverty–tells the remarkable story of how, starting 250 years ago, some parts of the world began to experience sustained progress, opening up gaps and setting the stage for today’s hugely unequal world. Deaton takes an in-depth look at the historical and ongoing patterns behind the health and wealth of nations, and he addresses what needs to be done to help those left behind.

Deaton describes vast innovations and wrenching setbacks: the successes of antibiotics, pest control, vaccinations, and clean water on the one hand, and disastrous famines and the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the other. He examines the United States, a nation that has prospered but is today experiencing slower growth and increasing inequality. He also considers how economic growth in India and China has improved the lives of more than a billion people. Deaton argues that international aid has been ineffective and even harmful. He suggests alternative efforts–including reforming incentives to drug companies and lifting trade restrictions–that will allow the developing world to bring about its own Great Escape.

Demonstrating how changes in health and living standards have transformed our lives, The Great Escape is a powerful guide to addressing the well-being of all nations.

Angus Deaton is the Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University. His many books include The Analysis of Household Surveys and Economics and Consumer Behavior. He is a past president of the American Economic Association.

Endorsement:

“There is nobody better than Angus Deaton to explain why our lives are longer, healthier, and more prosperous than those of our great-grandparents. The story he tells is much more than an inexorable march of progress–it has also been unequal, uneven, and incomplete, and at each step, politics has played a defining role. This is a must-read for anybody interested in the wealth and health of nations.”–Daron Acemoglu, coauthor of Why Nations Fail

“At once engaging and compassionate, this is an uplifting story by a major scholar.”–Paul Collier, author of The Bottom Billion

“Magisterial and superb.”–William Easterly, author of The White Man’s Burden

The Great Escape tells the two biggest stories in history: how humanity got healthy and wealthy, and why some people got so much healthier and wealthier than others. Angus Deaton, one of the world’s leading development economists, takes us on an extraordinary journey–from an age when almost everyone was poor and sick to one where most people have escaped these evils–and he tells us how the billion still trapped in extreme poverty can join in this great escape. Everyone who wants to understand the twenty-first century should read this book.”–Ian Morris, author of Why the West Rules–for Now

Angus Deaton, author of The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality


About Angus Deaton:
  • Expertise: health, wellbeing, economic development, household surveys, the analysis of household behavior (especially at the microeconomic level), poverty in India and around the world
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower Professor of Economics and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and the Economics Department at Princeton University
  • Holds both American and British citizenship
  • Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
  • Awarded the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in 2012
  • Was President of the American Economic Association in 2009
  • First recipient of the Society’s Frisch Medal in 1978
  • Holds a B.A. (1967), M.A. (1971), and Ph.D (1974) from Cambridge University
  • Author of The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality


Awards:

  • BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in Economics, Finance, and Management, 2012
  • Honorary Doctor of Economics, University of Cyprus, 2012
  • Honorary Doctor of Science in Social Science, Edinburgh University, 2011
  • Hicks Lecture, Economics, Oxford, 2011
  • Stone Lecture, Department of Economics, Cambridge, 2010
  • Foundation Lecture, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, 2010
  • Corresponding Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2010
  • Distinguished Fellow, American Economic Association, 2010
  • President, American Economic Association, 2009
  • Honorary Fellow of Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, May 2009
  • John Kenneth Galbraith Award, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Foundation, July 2009
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of St. Andrews, June 2008

To read more about Angus Deaton, visit his Author Spotlight biography: http://blog.press.princeton.edu/angus-deaton-2/

Derek Sayer “succeeds in doing what might have seemed at the beginning an impossible task,” according to Leonardo Reviews

Derek Sayer’s Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century, is warmly received by Jan Baetens of Leonardo Reviews:

Why Prague as ‘capital of the 20th Century’, and not Berlin, Tokyo, Los Angles, or, of course, New York? The answer that Derek Sayer, renowned specialist of Czech Modernism, gives to this question is multiple, but most crucial is here the symmetry he elaborates with Walter Benjamin’s landmark description of Paris, cultural capital of the 19th Century. Just as the Ville-Lumière could appear in Benjamin eyes‒and don’t we look all through his eyes nowadays?‒as the laboratory of 20th Century’s modernism, Prague may be the city that foreshadows the world in which we live today, a world that is less simply postmodern than the epitome of what Baudelaire defined as the landmark feature of all modernities ahead: “the ephemeral, the fleeting, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable” (“The Painter of Modern Life,” 1863). More than any other city in the (Western) world, Prague has become the symbol of that singular mix of constancy and instability that singles out modern as well as postmodern life. Much more than a city like New Work, Prague is deeply rooted in history, and much more than a city like Paris, this history is a never-ending chain of upheavals, turmoil, changes, revolutions, and destructions, in which the only certitude that remains can only be that of uncertainty itself.

Yet there is also a second reason to choose Prague as a new case in point for a Benjaminian revisiting of cultural history, in the very broad sense of the word bringing together art, politics, ideology, business, and daily life, combining both the well-known signposts of culture and the forgotten or despised details that only illuminated rag pickers are able to value. That reason is the necessity to rewrite a dramatically important chapter of history wiped out by post-iron curtain ideas on 20th Century modernism. Until the Second World War, Prague had been, indeed, one of the cradles of Surrealism, only second to Paris and, if not in depth than certainly in width, definitely more important than Brussels. Belgium may have had more radical avant-garde writers than Czechoslovakia (in comparison with Paul Nougé, the Nobel Prize winning Jaroslav Seifert will appear to many as a rather pale figure, for instance), and it may have hosted also more famous painters (needless to remind that Magritte has had a more lasting influence than his Czech colleagues), but Surrealism has pervaded the whole of culture and society more profoundly in the old kingdom of Bohemia than the country governed by King Albert I and King Leopold III, a country where Surrealism often narrowed down into softer, more user-friendly, sometimes almost petty-bourgeois forms, while Surrealism did never cease to have revolutionary undertones in Prague. Unfortunately, however, it is the fate of small countries and small cultures to be overlooked in history, which remains written and rewritten from the viewpoint of the global culture of the day. Hence, for instance, the complete neglect of Czech Surrealism in the show that has determined for many decades the US vision of modernity: William Rubin’s 1968 MOMA blockbuster retrospective “Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage”.

Read the complete review at Leonardo Reviews: http://leonardo.info/reviews/july2013/sayer-baetens.php


Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History by Derek SayerPrague, Capital of the Twentieth Century:
A Surrealist History

Derek Sayer

Setting out to recover the roots of modernity in the boulevards, interiors, and arcades of the “city of light,” Walter Benjamin dubbed Paris “the capital of the nineteenth century.” In this eagerly anticipated sequel to his acclaimed Coasts of Bohemia: A Czech History, Derek Sayer argues that Prague could well be seen as the capital of the much darker twentieth century. Ranging across twentieth-century Prague’s astonishingly vibrant and always surprising human landscape, this richly illustrated cultural history describes how the city has experienced (and suffered) more ways of being modern than perhaps any other metropolis.

“[A] captivating portrait of 20th-century Prague. . . . The breadth of Sayer’s knowledge is encyclopedic, and those willing to stay the course will be rewarded.”–Publishers Weekly

Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century is an erudite, comprehensive, well-illustrated and witty account of Czech art, design, architecture, literature and music in an era–stretching roughly from Czechoslovakia’s creation in 1918 to the end of the second world war–when few in Paris, Berlin, London or even New York would have thought of the Czechs as not being part of western civilisation. . . . [I]n this book [Sayer] has succeeded in bringing back to life a golden avant-garde era that not long ago was in danger of being written out of history altogether.”–Tony Barber, Financial Times

BOOK LAUNCH (June 10, 6:30 PM): Join Derek Sayer, Michael Beckerman, Jindřich Toman, and Peter Zusi for a discussion on Prague – the dark capital of the twentieth century

Derek Sayer‘s book Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History, will be released June 10, 2013 at 6:30 PM in The Masaryk Room at University College London. Dialogue with Sayer, Michael Beckerman (New York University), Jindrich Toman (University of Michigan Ann-Arbor), and Peter Zusi (University College London) celebrates the release of the book. Conversation will center around topics that stem from the controversial history of the Czech Republic’s capital and largest city.

Sayer has received praise for his analysis of Prague’s history, bringing to life not only the art and design of the city, but also a vivid account of Prague’s entire cultural background:

This is a fascinating and brilliantly written narrative that combines elements of literary guide, biography, cultural history, and essay. Writing with warm engagement, and drawing on his detailed knowledge of Czech literature, art, architecture, music, and other fields, Derek Sayer provides a rich picture of a dynamic cultural landscape.“–Jindrich Toman, University of Michigan

[A] captivating portrait of 20th-century Prague. . . . The breadth of Sayer’s knowledge is encyclopedic, and those willing to stay the course will be rewarded.“–Publishers Weekly

Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century is an erudite, comprehensive, well-illustrated and witty account of Czech art, design, architecture, literature and music in an era–stretching roughly from Czechoslovakia’s creation in 1918 to the end of the second world war–when few in Paris, Berlin, London or even New York would have thought of the Czechs as not being part of western civilisation. . . . [I]n this book [Sayer] has succeeded in bringing back to life a golden avant-garde era that not long ago was in danger of being written out of history altogether.“–Tony Barber, Financial Times

EVENT INFO:
Book launch and conversation: Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century?

Setting out to recover the dreamworlds of modernity in the boulevards, interiors, and arcades of the “city of light,” Walter Benjamin dubbed Paris “the capital of the nineteenth century.” With Prague, Capital of the Twentieth Century: A Surrealist History (Princeton University Press) Derek Sayer christens a new global capital for a darker century. Michael Beckerman, Jindřich Toman, and Peter Zusi join him in conversation to celebrate the publication of the book.

A Conversation

Michael Beckerman (New York University)
Jindrich Toman (University of Michigan-Ann Arbor)
Derek Sayer (Lancaster University)
Peter Zusi (University College London)

All welcome – this event is free, no registration needed.
More info: p.zusi@ucl.ac.uk

Venue:

The Masaryk Room, 4th Floor, The School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, 16 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW

Date:

10 Jun 2013 18:30

Organizer:

Czech Center is a co-organizer of the event.

For more information on this event, please visit the following page:
http://london.czechcentres.cz/programme/travel-events/derek-sayer-book-launch/

Explaining Why They are ‘The Chosen Few’

The Jewish people went from being agrarian and illiterate in 70 CE to literate and money-savy urbanites in 1492. How did they do it? Maristella Botticini & Zvi Eckstein argue in their book The Chosen Few that it was due to educational reform. Read this new essay by the authors on PBS Newshour as they explain further Jewish success.

The Chosen Few: A New Explanation of Jewish Success

Imagine a dinner conversation in a New York or Milan or Tel Aviv restaurant in which three people–an Israeli, an American, and a European — ask to each other: “Why are so many Jews urban dwellers rather than farmers? Why are Jews primarily engaged in trade, commerce, entrepreneurial activities, finance, law, medicine, and scholarship? And why have the Jewish people experienced one of the longest and most scattered diasporas in history, along with a steep demographic decline?”

Most likely, the standard answers they would suggest would be along these lines: “The Jews are not farmers because their ancestors were prohibited from owning land in the Middle Ages.” “They became moneylenders, bankers, and financiers because during the medieval period Christians were banned from lending money at interest, so the Jews filled in that role.” “The Jewish population dispersed worldwide and declined in numbers as a result of endless massacres.”

Imagine now that two economists (us) seated at a nearby table, after listening to this conversation, tell the three people who are having this lively debate: “Are you sure that your explanations are correct? You should read this new book, ours, “The Chosen Few: How Education Shaped Jewish History,” and you would learn that when one looks over the 15 centuries spanning from 70 C.E. to 1492, these oft-given answers that you are suggesting seem at odds with the historical facts. This book provides you with a novel explanation of why the Jews are the people they are today — a comparatively small population of economically successful and intellectually prominent individuals.”

Suppose you are like one of the three people in the story above and you wonder why you should follow the advice of the two economists. There are many books that have studied the history of the Jewish people and have addressed those fascinating questions. What’s really special about this one?

Read the rest of this compelling article at The Newshour website:

[Read more...]

PUP Author Geoffrey Robinson in Documentary about East Timor

This weekend the acclaimed documentary Alias Ruby Blade will premiere at the Tribeca film festival. The documentary unravels the history behind the new nation in East Timor after its struggle for independence. The documentary features PUP author Geoffrey Robinson who has written a book about East Timor. Robinson authored “If you Leave Us Here, We Will Die”: How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor. For showtime information click here.

Read a review for the documentary from This Week in New York below.

Alias Ruby Blade: A Story of Love and Revolution is an intimate, involving documentary that goes behind the scenes of East Timor’s battle for independence, structured like a gripping thriller with a decidedly personal edge. In 1991, Australian Kirsty Sword went to East Timor as part of a team posing as tourists while actually making a secret film about the embattled Indonesian island. Almost immediately, the Australian teacher and activist found herself right in the middle of the violent struggle as bullets flew all around her and her team, but they kept the cameras rolling, compiling amazing footage that helped alert the world as to what was happening there. Sword soon became a courier for the revolution, adopting the spy name Ruby Blade and smuggling in notes and, eventually, electronic equipment to jailed resistance leader Kay Rala “Xanana” Gusmão, who was serving a life sentence in Jakarta’s Cipinang Prison. Armed with a camera, Sword took remarkable footage during those years, most of which has never before been shown to the public; she opened up her archives for husband-and-wife documentarians Tanya Ager Meillier and Alex Meillier and speaks extensively with them in the film, relating her involvement with the independence movement — which included falling in love with the charismatic Xanana. The Meilliers also talk with such key resistance fighters as Nobel Peace Prize winner José Ramos-Horta and diplomat Constancio Pinto as well as historian and human rights activist Geoffrey Robinson and Inside Indonesia editor Pat Walsh, who share their stories about the Indonesian occupation that lasted from 1975 to 1999, followed by a UN-sponsored referendum for independence that led to yet more horrors. But Sword, who narrates much of the film, and Xanana, who appears primarily in archival footage and photographs, never gave up their dream of a free, democratic East Timor while also considering a life together. As much as Alias Ruby Blade delves into the political situation in East Timor, it’s really about how a young, strong woman followed her heart and made a difference in a faraway part of the globe. Alias Ruby Blade will have its North American premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, where it’s part of the Documentary Competition. (By the way, the less you know about how things turned out in East Timor, the more exciting the film is, so don’t read up on it before going to one of the four screenings.)

Learn more about the film here.

The Great Rebalancing Review in The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal published a book review of The Great Rebalancing: Trade, Conflict, and the Perilous Road Ahead for the World Economy by Michael Pettis. The reviewer calls Pettis a “brilliant economic thinker” and gives a good background of the financial situation in China and why it needs to be rebalanced. If you are not quite sure what the book is about or what exactly is going on with the Chinese economy and why it is important at all, this book review is a great place to start.

A Banking Paper Tiger

China Development Bank underwrote a massive stadium in Loudi, Hunan Province—a city that lacks a professional sports team.

China’s econoPettis_GreatRebalancing_S13my sometimes seems the work of miracles: three decades of economic growth, with GDP compounding at an annual rate of around 10%; the world’s highest levels of savings and investment; vast trade surpluses, which feed the largest foreign-exchange reserves in history. The financial system has played a key role in delivering these economic feats, and no single institution within it has been more important than China Development Bank. “Understand CDB,” Henry Sanderson and Michael Forsythe write in “China’s Superbank,” “and you understand the core of China’s state capitalism.”

This so-called policy bank, founded less than two decades ago, boasts a larger loan book than J.P. Morgan ChaseJPM +3.41% . Over the past 15 years, CDB has lent trillions of dollars to finance China’s urbanization policy. More recently, it has dished out vast sums across the globe to secure China’s long-term energy supplies. Hugo Chávez, whose country has been the largest single foreign recipient of CDB’s loans, proclaims his financial benefactor as the bank “with the most money in the world.”

Read the FULL review at The Wall Street Journal online.

The Inner Life of Empires Comprehensive Web Resource Now Available

Inner Life of EmpiresEmma Rothschild, author of The Inner Life of Empires:An Eighteenth-Century History, has created a website featuring resources and additional information that complement her 2011 book. The Inner Life of Empires, which is newly available in paperback, features a unique look at the political, economical, and social landscape of the 18th century world through the Johnstone family’s rich history. The family’s widespread reach across the globe and relationships to the people and institutions that structured the time period create a comprehensive look at both the microcosm that is their family history and the macrocosm of the history of the 18th century. The website delves further into the content covered in Rothschild’s book by including interactive maps of the Johnstone family’s social and geographical networks, profiles of members of the Johnstone family, and some of the resources that Rothschild used while writing the book.

Used in conjunction with The Inner Life of Empires, the website serves as a helpful guide to illustrate a tremendous time in history all through the lives of the people who lived through it.

Visit the website: http://www.innerlifeofempires.org/

The Inner Life of Empires is the winner of the 2011 Scottish History Book of the Year Award, Saltire Society, one of The New Yorker‘s “Reviewer’s Favorites” of 2011, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust Book Awards (Non-Fiction category). It has been hailed by critics and consumers alike for its unique perspective on a pivotal time period in history.

Exclusive Sneak Peek at the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought — West, The

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought is the first reference to Islamic political thought from the birth of Islam to today. Comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible, the Encyclopedia provides much-needed context for understanding contemporary politics in the Islamic world and beyond. In this exclusive excerpt, Professor John R. Bowen of Washington University, visits the various views on Muslim immigration among contemporary scholars:

West, The

Although Muslims have resided in parts of Europe for centuries, and many slaves taken from Africa to North America were Muslims, the question of Islam in the West rose in importance after World War II. European countries encouraged workers from North and West Africa, South Asia, and Turkey to add their labor power to the postwar recovery, and most of those workers were Muslims. By the late 1960s, many of those workers had settled in Europe with their families. Immigration to the United States increased at about the same time, and Muslims, particularly from South Asia, were among those who settled there. Among the new arrivals were many Muslim scholars who offered opinions about how ordinary Muslims were to live religious lives in lands where they were minorities and where not all Islamic religious institutions were available. At the same time, many African American Muslims were turning from the specific teachings of the Nation of Islam toward a more broadly distributed Sunni Islam. Contemporary scholars of diverse origins increasingly provide opinions through broader networks that stretch across the Atlantic and include scholars from non- Western centers of learning. Muslims have posed questions about (1) the legitimacy of participating in Western political institutions and (2) how best to adapt their individual, everyday behavior to their new, non- Islamic environments. One major response has been the call to develop “legal theory for Muslim minorities‘ (flqh al-aqalliyyăt) or a distinct jurisprudence for Muslims living as minorities in non- Muslim societies. In Europe the idea has been most closely associated with Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a scholar born in 1926 in Egypt who was educated and taught at Azhar University before moving to Qatar, where he created a faculty of shari’a and became well- known through his books, his website, and his broadcasts on Aljazeera television. He played a major role on the popular website Islam Online and in the European Council for Fatwa and Research, an association of scholars mainly living in (although not originating from) European countries.

View the rest of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought excerpt here: West, The

Exclusive Sneak Peek at the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought — Syria

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought is the first reference to Islamic political thought from the birth of Islam to today. Comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible, the Encyclopedia provides much-needed context for understanding contemporary politics in the Islamic world and beyond. In this exclusive excerpt, Gerhard Böwering, Professor of Religious Studies and Islamic Studies at Yale University, details the political and social development of Syria:

Syria

Syria (Shăm, ”the left- handed region,‘ when one faces the rising sun in the Arab heartlands) falls naturally into an eastern mountain range along the Mediterranean with its major cities of Damascus and Aleppo and into a western section with a plain of steppes and deserts. Prior to the Muslim conquest, Syria had been a wealthy Roman province (64— 300), with Antioch as its capital, and had continued to ‡ourish in its golden age during the Byzantine period (300— 634). Conquered by Muslim Arab forces in 635— 36, Syria be-came the center of the Arab Empire under the Umayyad dynasty, with Damascus as its seat of government (658— 750). During the flrst phase of the Abbasid Empire (750— 945), with Baghdad as the seat of the caliph, Syria lost its central position to Iraq, became the principal Muslim province bordering on the Byzantine Empire to its north, was drawn into tribal con‡icts between southern and northern Arabs, faced attempts by Muslim rulers of Egypt to extend their hegemony over its territory, and became the theater of com-peting Sunni- Shi’i in‡uence. During the second phase of Abbasid rule (945— 1258), Syria initially experienced a period of renaissance under local dynasties, foremost among them the Shi’i dynasty of the Hamdanids ruling from Aleppo, at the same time coming under the increasing in‡uence of the Isma’ili Fatimid dynasty, which sought to extend itself from its base in Cairo, the capital of its counter-caliphate. With the Sunni revival patronized by the Turkic Seljuq sultans after their takeover of Baghdad in 1055, Syria soon came under the control of Seljuq atabegs (tutors), among them the Turkic Zengids of Aleppo and the Kurdish Ayyubids of Damascus. The Ayyubid Saladin brought Fatimid rule to an end in 1171 and de-feated the Crusaders at Hattin in 1187, thereby restoring Jerusalem to Muslim control and flrmly establishing Sunni rule over Syria.
At the time of the Mongol invasions of the Iranian lands that brought the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad to its end in 1258, the Mamluks succeeded to the rich heritage of the Ayyubids in both Egypt and Syria after having definitively arrested the Mongol advance westward in 1260 at the Battle of ’Ayn Jalut. For its part, Syria flourished under Mamluk rule as a land of prosperity and a center of learning but was dealt a harsh blow by Tamerlane’s invasion in 1401, which devastated Aleppo and Damascus. Thereafter Syria’s culture declined, and the country was conquered in 1516 by the Ottoman Turks, who had established themselves in Anatolia and the Balkans and had conquered Constantinople in 1453, renaming it Istanbul and taking it as the capital of their expanding empire. Under the Ottomans, Syria continued for three centuries as a province ruled by Turkish pashas, administrators appointed by the Ottoman sultans, while much of local urban politics was dominated by the powerful influence of prominent Arab families, such as the ’Azms.

View the rest of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought excerpt here: Syria

Exclusive Sneak Peek at the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought — Salafis

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought is the first reference to Islamic political thought from the birth of Islam to today. Comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible, the Encyclopedia provides much-needed context for understanding contemporary politics in the Islamic world and beyond. In this exclusive excerpt, Bernard Haykel, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University, uncovers the complex history of Salafis in the context of Islamic political thought:

Salafis

The Salafi designation is contested in the scholarly literature as well as among some Muslims, and because of this there is considerable confusion about to whom it applies and the nature of its doctrines. A historically grounded definition maintains that Salafis adhere to a literalist theology that rejects allegorical interpretation and reason- based arguments and claim to be faithful to the teachings of the theological Hanbalis or the ahl al-יּadűth. Salafis insist that their beliefs are identical to those of the first three generations of Muslims, al-salaf al-ጃăliיּ (pious ancestors), from whom they take their name. Their attention is directed at convincing other Muslims of the superiority of Salai teachings and of the need to abandon reprehensible innovations (bida’) allegedly not rooted in Islam, such as superstitious beliefs and the intercessionary practices associated with the cult of dead saints. Sufis and Shi’is in particular are the target of Salafi polemical attacks for partaking in forms of unbelief (kufr) by not being faithful to a strict conception of God’s oneness (tawיּűd). Salaflsm’s most prominent premodern authorities are Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), his student Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya (d. 1350), and a number of reformist scholars who followed in their footsteps, such as Muhammad b. ’Abd al-Wahhab (d. 1792) and Muhammad al-Shawkani (d. 1834), among others. Because Salafis are concerned with theological purity, they engage in exclusionary practices that can attain the level of excommunication (takfűr) of fellow Muslims, and embedded in this is the potential for direct action against individuals or institutions.

View the rest of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought excerpt here: Salafis