One of my observations was that Hourani wrote like and Arab, not an Englishman. Since he is a professor at Oxford that should not be the case. Pipes put it this way,
“In some ways, Mr. Hourani's work more closely resembles an Arab chronicle than a modern Western history.”I kept finding that the nouns and verbs I was reading might be objectively correct but they were stripped of the adjectives and adverbs that would have made it a color picture instead of black and white. Pipes puts it this way,
“A more severe problem concerns the book's overly-rosy picture. Unpleasantries such as racism, the status of women, and the Arab record in Africa are either touched on lightly or sugar-coated.”He picks out the glossing over of slavery. Hourani treats slavery the way a Southern plantation owner would have described slaves as happy, singing in the fields, dancing at night and not suited for more than slavery.
“Absent is any mention of the terror of enslavement, the castration of eunuchs, the raping of slave women, the pitiless conditions on farms and mines, or the unending humiliation of the slave status”To be fair I see the same lack of balance in his description of the Shia branch of Islam. Hourani has a definite case of Apologist Tunnel Vision.
Pipes’ analysis comes together.
“Finally, Mr. Hourani pursues a fashionably leftist agenda, impugning capitalism and attacking Israel, but with so fine a subtlety it borders on the surreptitious. Repeated use of qualifiers ("may," "might," "perhaps," "possible") allows the author to distance himself from his own assertions.”I plan to finish the book and continue taking notes. I find it valuable to read a book about the Arabs from a Muslim point of view. Since I have a sense of history I can filter out a lot of the nonsense and it gives me a better understanding of a large part of the world, its culture and its religion. I would not recommend the book to the general reader unless you have a lot of time on your hands.
Hourani, Albert. A History of the Arab Peoples. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard
University Press, 1991.
homo unius libri