The Near East, the Fertile Crescent, the Holy Land--by any name the Middle East has been at the heart of human realization, conquest, and yearning since history began. Present-day Jews, Christians, and Muslims--and concerned observers from the Americas to North Africa and Europe--feel strong allegiance to the area. Nations spend millions of dollars and countless hours in negotiating its endless strife, and still front-page headlines report sorrow after sorrow and revenge after revenge. In this book leading writers in the field examine the reasons and trace the "longest history:" the flourishing of the first empires and alphabets, the centuries of conquests, and the resulting resentments that fuel the conflicts being played out even now.
Through photographs, maps, and the writings of highly respected authors such as David Fromkin, Zahi Hawass, Sandra Mackey, and Milton Viorst, Cradle & Crucible details the historical, political, cultural, and religious forces that have shaped the region and unravels for readers the enigma that is the Middle East. Beginning with the prehistoric civilizations of the fertile crescent and continuing through the conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries, the first section of the book distills the Middle East's sweeping, often turbulent history. From the Hittites to Alexander the Great, from the Romans to the Crusaders, from the Ottomans to the Imperialists, the Middle East's rich tapestry of influences and identities is described with new critical insights. The book's second section is devoted to the Middle East's three great faiths, examining in depth the impact of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian beliefs on history and daily life in the Middle East. Filled with photographs and maps that contribute to a visual understanding of the subject, Cradle & Crucible is a timely guide to this complex, enormously important area of the world.