What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response

Hardcover | December 31, 2001

byBernard Lewis

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For many centuries, the world of Islam was in the forefront of human achievement--the foremost military and economic power in the world, the leader in the arts and sciences of civilization. Christian Europe, a remote land beyond its northwestern frontier, was seen as an outer darkness ofbarbarism and unbelief from which there was nothing to learn or to fear. And then everything changed, as the previously despised West won victory after victory, first in the battlefield and the marketplace, then in almost every aspect of public and even private life. In this intriguing volume, Bernard Lewis examines the anguished reaction of the Islamic world as it tried to understand why things had changed--how they had been overtaken, overshadowed, and to an increasing extent dominated by the West. Lewis provides a fascinating portrait of a culture inturmoil. He shows how the Middle East turned its attention to understanding European weaponry and military tactics, commerce and industry, government and diplomacy, education and culture. Lewis highlights the striking differences between the Western and Middle Eastern cultures from the 18th to the20th centuries through thought-provoking comparisons of such things as Christianity and Islam, music and the arts, the position of women, secularism and the civil society, the clock and the calendar. Hailed in The New York Times Book Review as "the doyen of Middle Eastern studies," Bernard Lewis is one of the West's foremost authorities on Islamic history and culture. In this striking volume, he offers an incisive look at the historical relationship between the Middle East and Europe.

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For many centuries, the world of Islam was in the forefront of human achievement--the foremost military and economic power in the world, the leader in the arts and sciences of civilization. Christian Europe, a remote land beyond its northwestern frontier, was seen as an outer darkness ofbarbarism and unbelief from which there was nothi...

Bernard Lewis is the Cleveland E. Dodge Professor of Near Eastern Studies Emeritus at Princeton University. A highly eminent authority on Middle Eastern history, the author of over two dozen books, most notably The Arabs in History, The Emergence of Modern Turkey, The Political Language of Islam, The Muslim Discovery of Europe and The...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:192 pages, 5.59 × 8.5 × 0.71 inPublished:December 31, 2001Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195144201

ISBN - 13:9780195144208

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Customer Reviews of What Went Wrong?: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Balanced Assessment I found the book to present a balanced evidence based assessment of the how the middle eastern nation came to bein the star they are today.
Date published: 2013-12-24
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Disappointment This is a surprisingly disappointing book, as What Went Wrong? never really answers its title question. Most of Bernard Lewis' book is a relatively brief survey of Islamic history, particularly of its Ottoman and Arab varieties. For those who already have a working knowledge of Islamic history, you will not find many new revelations in Lewis' book. To be fair, I didn't find the historical part of his book noticeably biased or one-sided, but it certainly didn't provide a lot of insight. He makes a good distinction between modernization and Westernization, but he's hardly the only one to have used it. Most of his attempts to answer the title question seem to be appended to the end of each chapter, almost as an afterthought. He does touch on standard Western arguments for Islam's decline (lack of state/religious separation, treatment of women, victimhood mentality, disdain of foreign cultures, etc.), but he never really commits himself to a systematic argument that explains why Islamic culture hasn't regained its former stature. Lewis does briefly say that Arab Muslims, in particular, should look in the mirror for their weaknesses, rather than to their succession of foreign conquerors. I doubt this pleases many Arabs. Nevertheless, that's about as committed as his argument gets. One thing I did find helpful was Lewis' distinction between "traditional" Islam and fundamentalist Islam. Lewis clearly favours the former, given its roots in the more tolerant and less bureaucratic Islam of the medieval period. But whether it's practical or useful to promote this model in the 21st century remains to be seen. Overall, I didn't gain much from this book, and I think its popularity is unwarranted.
Date published: 2007-11-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Bernard Lewis' review of the causes of Ottoman decline as an analogy for the Modern Middle East offers the reader several good theories of why the development lag between the Middle East and the West in a post 9-11 world exists. If you are looking for a good overview of the topic and a source of dinner conversation this book is for you. A deeper understanding of individual issues and thier relative impact on development is probably better sought in some of the author's other writings.
Date published: 2003-08-17

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Editorial Reviews

"Both scholarly and interesting, it is a treat to read history from a Muslim perspective. It is ver instructive for acquiring both religious and cultural understanding."-- Timothy Yoder, Assistant Professor, Philadelphia Biblical University