The 10 Best Middle East History Books
This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in February of 2018. It's one of the most volatile areas on the planet, with a myriad of conflicts and disputes that affect the everyday lives of people across time zones. If you're curious as to how we reached this point, these Middle East history books will shine a light on the events that led us here, as well as reveal the forces that continue to impact the region — and the world at large — to this day. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
April 23, 2020:
This list saw us cherry-pick some of the best volumes on the subject at hand, although we concede that there are of course dozens upon dozens of seminal texts out there that work to convey the ancient culture, current events, complexities, shifting alliances, redrawn boundaries, religious aspects, and so much more of the Middle East. We wanted to provide a variety of selections to get readers started on their journey learning about this fascinating region.
If you're interested in religion, then The Crusades and After the Prophet are both excellent choices. The former is especially informative for those interested in the history of christianity as well. Each one deals with conflicts that occurred long ago yet still manage to have a deep impact on the present day.
For a look at the events that led to the formation of the modern Middle East, A Peace to End All Peace and Lawrence in Arabia both tout that as their focus, with the added benefit that the latter chronicles the exploits of a famed archaeologist, making for an even more enthralling read.
In addition to The Great War for Civilisation, we wanted to add a second volume that shares stories of the region through personal experience and meticulous journalism, and so you'll find From Beirut to Jerusalem on this list. Then, we sought to balance it out by also bringing on A History of the Modern Middle East, a comprehensive textbook perfect for those who prefer structured learning.
This is one of those subjects for which it can be difficult to find literature that isn't biased. Some of the selections on this list are guilty of slight leanings, but they are not overly exaggerated or else explained with a little further knowledge about the author or context the book was written in. But we felt that our previous choices Inside the Middle East and America's War for the Greater Middle East were inordinately biased. If you're well-versed on their subject matter, then they are excellent reads, but might unconsciously sway a new reader. And if you're interested in American policies and interventions, we maintain that All the Shah's Men is informative and enlightening.
TeachMideast TeachMideast is an educational outreach initiative created by the Middle East Policy Council, a nonpartisan nonprofit working to contribute to American understanding of political, economic, and cultural issues of the region. It's a resource designed to give educators a foundation to teach about complex and intriguing subjects, but has a wealth of information for curious autodidacts and students, too. teachmideast.org
Udemy For when books are not enough, consider taking a course. Udemy is a global marketplace for teaching and learning that connects students with online video courses curated by industry experts. They offer classes that provide insight into the Middle East and its social, cultural, religious, military, and political history. udemy.com