In this groundbreaking book, Adam Mestyan argues that post-Ottoman Arab political orders were not, as many historians believe, products of European colonialism but of the process of “recycling empire.” Mestyan shows that in the post–World War I Middle East, Allied Powers officials and ex-Ottoman patricians collaborated to remake imperial institutions, recycling earlier Ottoman uses of genealogy and religion in the creation of new polities, with the exception of colonized Palestine. These polities, he contends, should be understood not in terms of colonies and nation-states but as subordinated sovereign local states—localized regimes of religious, ethnic, and dynastic sources of imperial authority. Meanwhile, governance without sovereignty became the new form of Western domination.
Drawing on previously unused Ottoman, French, Syrian, and Saudi archival sources, Mestyan explores ideas and practices of creating composite polities in the interwar Middle East and, in doing so, sheds light on local agency in the making of the forgotten Kingdom of the Hijaz, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria, the first Muslim republic. Mestyan considers the adjustment of imperial Islam to a world without a Muslim empire, discussing the post-Ottoman Egyptian monarchy and the intertwined making of Saudi Arabia and the State of Syria in the 1920s and 1930s.
Mestyan’s innovative analysis shows how an empire-based theory of the modern political order can help refine our understanding of political dynamics throughout the twentieth century and down to the turbulent present day.
“a highly original reworking of the ways in which the history of this era in the Middle East has been understood”
“In this deeply researched and conceptually rich history of the Arab monarchies that succeeded the Ottoman Empire, Adam Mestyan explores the recycling and transformation of imperial ideas and practices”
“The approach is unconventional, compelling, and filled with intellectual surprises.”
How old is the world? This question was a central problem for Muslims, Christians, and Jews in the face of the new scientific discoveries in the nineteenth century. This book introduces the answer from a Muslim point of view, outside of official institutions. The extended introduction – a microhistory in the Middle East – explores the life and œuvre of a forgotten Egyptian intellectual and poet, Muṣṭafā Salāma al-Naǧǧārī (d. 1870). Next, A. Mestyan provides the English translation and Arabic transcription of the surviving fragments of al-Naǧǧārīʼs manuscript, The Garden of Ismail’s Praise. This is a universal history of Egypt, written while the Suez Canal was under construction to praise the governor Khedive Ismail (r. 1863-1879). Sheikh al-Naǧǧārī advocates a unique solution to computing the period of primordial history, before the Deluge, in the age of steam and print. Al-Naǧǧārī’s alternative Nahḍa voice is available for the first time in this edition.
Adam Mestyan‘s first monograph is Arab Patriotism: The Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017). The book is available at Amazon in hardcover and E-book formats as well. Please find here the press release.
This book challenges the received narrative that Arabism in general and Egyptian territorial nationalism in particular emerged in opposition to the Ottoman and British Empires and primarily from below. The author argues instead that early Arabic nationalist culture was produced in dialogue with the localized Ottoman power by educated Arabs who integrated Muslim and European cultural forms in their search for political inclusion and patronage. Based on archival research in Egypt, Turkey, France, UK, and the USA Arab Patriotism offers the first scholarly investigation of the Egyptian khedivate, between the 1860s and the 1890s, a period that witnessed a global wave of monarchical restoration and reformation. The khedivate was a uniquely hybrid polity – ruled by the Ottoman Empire and later occupied by the British – that combined dynastic and nascent nationalist interests, and spurred a range of cultural productions and practices.
“The nineteenth-century Mediterranean region emerges in a new and unexpected light”
“A superb scholarly achievement”
“This is one of the most exciting new works that I have read in recent years.”
“Mestyan paints a detailed and animated picture of a rich cultural landscape.”