The book firstly traces Arab origins and the formation of Arab societies after the emergence of Islam, assessing the perspectives and factors that shaped the rise of the Arab nation in both practical and intellectual terms. It then examines the beginning of the Arab awakening and the course of its development in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first two decades of the twentieth, focusing on the emergence of a nationalist perspective in the development of intellectual positions on patriotism and Arabism.
Some Egyptians held tenaciously to the traditional arrangements which had both guaranteed Muslim primacy and served relatively well to protect the Copts and afford them some autonomy. Differences within the Coptic community over the wisdom of trusting the genuineness and durability of Muslim support for equality were accentuated by a protracted struggle between reforming laymen and conservative clergy for control of the community. The unwillingness of all parties to compromise hampered the ability of the community both to determine and to defend its interests.
The Copts met with modest success in their attempt to become full Egyptian citizens. Their influence in the Wafd, the pre-eminent political party, was very strong prior to and in the early years of the constitutional monarchy, and their formal representation was generally adequate and, in some parliaments, better than adequate. However, this very success produced a backlash which caused many Copts to believe, by the 1940s, that the experiment had failed: political activity has become fraught with risk for them. At the close of the monarchy, equality and shared power seemed motions as distant as in the disheartening years before the 1919 revolution.
In this book, the journalist Anthony McDermott examines the development of Egypt from Revolution to the present, describing various features of Egyptian society and the contributions of its leaders. He asks whether Egypt has fulfilled its expected role as the model for Arab and developing countries or whether the peace pact made by Sadat with Israel was a major error, causing Egypt’s withdrawal under Mubarak from the centre of international politics.
The book is lively and readable and provides a challenging introduction to the development and problems of the largest country in the Middle East.
First published 1988.
Since its publication in 1996, Holy Land has become an American classic. In "quick, translucent prose" (Michiko Kakutani, New York Times) that is at once lyrical and unsentimental, D. J. Waldie recounts growing up in Lakewood, California, a prototypical post-World War II suburb. Laid out in 316 sections as carefully measured as a grid of tract houses, Holy Land is by turns touching, eerie, funny, and encyclopedic in its handling of what was gained and lost when thousands of blue-collar families were thrown together in the suburbs of the 1950s. An intensely realized and wholly original memoir about the way in which a place can shape a life, Holy Land is ultimately about the resonance of choices—how wide a street should be, what to name a park—and the hopes that are realized in the habits of everyday life.