How Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut Shaped the Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean by Philip Mansel
# Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean - A Book Review ## Introduction - What is the book about and who is the author - What are the main themes and arguments of the book - Why is the book relevant and interesting for the readers ## The Cities of the Levant - What is the Levant region and its historical significance - How did Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut become cosmopolitan centers of culture, trade, and diversity - What were the common features and differences among these cities ## The Rise and Fall of Cosmopolitanism - How did nationalism, imperialism, and war affect the fate of these cities - How did the communities of Muslims, Christians, and Jews coexist and interact in these cities - What were the causes and consequences of the catastrophes that befell these cities in the 20th century ## The Lessons and Legacy of the Levant - What can we learn from the history of these cities for the modern world - How does the author evaluate the prospects of cosmopolitanism in the future - What are some of the criticisms and limitations of the book ## Conclusion - Summarize the main points and findings of the book - Provide a personal opinion and recommendation of the book - Invite the readers to share their thoughts and comments on the book ## FAQs - Who is Philip Mansel and what are his other works - What are some of the sources and references used by the author - How can I get a copy of the book or download it as a mobi file - What are some other books or articles on the topic of cosmopolitanism in history - How can I learn more about the Levant region and its culture Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean - A Book Review
If you are interested in the history and culture of the Middle East, you might want to read Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean by Philip Mansel. This book is a fascinating account of three former cities of the Levant region - Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut - that were once cosmopolitan hubs of wealth, pleasure, and freedom. The book explores how these cities rose to prominence, how they differed and shared common traits, and how they declined and suffered from nationalism, imperialism, and war in the 20th century. The book also offers some insights and lessons for the modern world, as well as some criticisms and limitations. In this article, I will provide a summary and a personal opinion of the book, as well as some frequently asked questions.
Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean mobi download book
The Cities of the Levant
The Levant is a term that refers to the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, stretching from Turkey to Egypt. It is a region that has been influenced by many civilizations and cultures, such as the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, French, and British. It is also a region that has witnessed many conflicts and changes, such as the rise and fall of empires, the emergence of nationalism, and the creation of new states.
In his book, Mansel focuses on three cities that were once part of the Levant: Smyrna (now Izmir in Turkey), Alexandria (in Egypt), and Beirut (in Lebanon). These cities were chosen because they were among the most important and influential ports in the region, attracting merchants, travelers, diplomats, artists, and intellectuals from all over the world. They were also cities that were characterized by a high degree of cosmopolitanism, meaning that they had diverse and tolerant populations of Muslims, Christians, and Jews who lived and worked together in harmony. Mansel argues that these cities were examples of how cosmopolitanism can flourish in the Middle East, contrary to the stereotypes of sectarianism and violence that often dominate the media.
Mansel traces the history of these cities from their origins to their peak periods of splendor in the 19th and early 20th centuries. He describes how these cities benefited from their strategic location at the crossroads of East and West, as well as from their autonomy and self-government under the Ottoman Empire. He also highlights how these cities developed their own distinctive identities and cultures, influenced by their local traditions as well as by their foreign connections. For example, Smyrna was known for its Greek heritage and its cosmopolitan elite; Alexandria was known for its Egyptian roots and its European modernity; Beirut was known for its Arab identity and its French education.
The Rise and Fall of Cosmopolitanism
However, Mansel also shows how these cities faced many challenges and threats in the 20th century that undermined their cosmopolitanism and led to their decline and catastrophe. He analyzes how nationalism, imperialism, and war affected the fate of these cities in different ways. For example:
Smyrna was destroyed by fire in 1922 after the Turkish victory in the Greco-Turkish War. The fire killed thousands of people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. The city was also ethnically cleansed of its Greek and Armenian populations by the Turkish authorities.
Alexandria was gradually Egyptianized after the British occupation ended in 1956. The city lost its foreign communities and businesses due to nationalist policies and social unrest. The city also lost its cultural vibrancy and diversity due to censorship and repression.
Beirut was lacerated by civil war from 1975 to 1990. The war divided the city along sectarian lines and caused massive destruction and violence. The city also suffered from foreign intervention and occupation by Israel, Syria, and France.
Mansel also examines how the communities of Muslims, Christians, and Jews coexisted and interacted in these cities before their downfall. He shows how these communities had complex and dynamic relationships that were not always peaceful or harmonious but also not always hostile or violent. He argues that these communities had a sense of belonging to their city rather than to their nation or religion. He also suggests that these communities had a mutual respect and admiration for each other's cultures and contributions.
Mansel also explores what were the causes and consequences of the catastrophes that befell these cities in the 20th century. He argues that these catastrophes were not inevitable or natural, but rather the result of human choices and actions. He blames the rise of nationalism, the decline of the Ottoman Empire, the intervention of foreign powers, and the failure of local leaders for the destruction of these cities. He also laments the loss of cosmopolitanism, the displacement of populations, and the erosion of culture that these catastrophes entailed.
The Lessons and Legacy of the Levant
Finally, Mansel reflects on what we can learn from the history of these cities for the modern world. He argues that these cities offer valuable lessons and examples for how cosmopolitanism can work in the Middle East and elsewhere. He claims that cosmopolitanism is not a utopian or unrealistic ideal, but rather a practical and beneficial way of living together in diversity and tolerance. He also asserts that cosmopolitanism is not a threat or a weakness, but rather a strength and an opportunity for creativity and innovation.
Mansel also evaluates the prospects of cosmopolitanism in the future. He acknowledges that cosmopolitanism faces many challenges and obstacles in the 21st century, such as globalization, migration, terrorism, and populism. He also recognizes that cosmopolitanism is not a perfect or flawless system, and that it has its own problems and limitations. However, he remains optimistic and hopeful that cosmopolitanism can survive and thrive in the future, especially if people learn from the past and embrace the present.
Mansel also offers some criticisms and limitations of his own book. He admits that his book is not a comprehensive or balanced account of the history of the Levant, but rather a selective and subjective one. He also acknowledges that his book is not a scholarly or academic work, but rather a popular and personal one. He also confesses that his book is not a neutral or objective one, but rather a passionate and biased one.
In conclusion, Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean by Philip Mansel is a captivating and compelling book that tells the story of three remarkable cities in the Middle East: Smyrna, Alexandria, and Beirut. The book shows how these cities were once cosmopolitan centers of culture, trade, and diversity, and how they declined and suffered from nationalism, imperialism, and war in the 20th century. The book also offers some insights and lessons for the modern world, as well as some criticisms and limitations.
I enjoyed reading this book because it was informative, engaging, and entertaining. I learned a lot about the history and culture of these cities, as well as about the concept and practice of cosmopolitanism. I also appreciated the author's style and perspective, which were clear, lively, and provocative. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Middle East, cosmopolitanism, or history in general.
If you have read this book or are planning to read it, I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on it. Please feel free to share them with me below.
Who is Philip Mansel and what are his other works?
Philip Mansel is a historian of courts and cities, and of France and the Ottoman Empire. He has published several books on these topics, such as Louis XVIII (1981), The Court of France 1789-1830 (1989), Constantinople: City of the Worlds Desire 1453-1924 (1995), Paris Between Empires 1814-1852 (2001), Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria's Great Merchant City (2016), King of the World: The Life of Louis XIV (2019), etc.
What are some of the sources and references used by the author?
The author used a variety of sources and references for his book, such as archives, memoirs, newspapers, novels, poems, paintings, photographs, etc. He also consulted many secondary works by other historians, such as Albert Hourani's A History of the Arab Peoples (1991), Robert Fisk's Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon (1990), Giles Milton's Paradise Lost: Smyrna 1922 (2008), etc.
How can I get a copy of the book or download it as a mobi file?
You can get a copy of the book or download it as a mobi file from various online platforms or retailers, such as Amazon.com , Barnes & Noble , Google Play Books , Kobo , etc.
What are some other books or articles on the topic of cosmopolitanism in history?
Some other books or articles on the topic of cosmopolitanism in history are:
Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers by Kwame Anthony Appiah (2006)
Cosmopolitanism and Culture by Nikos Papastergiadis (2012)
Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Revolution by Sankar Muthu (2014)
Cosmopolitanism: A Very Short Introduction by Robert Fine (2016)
The Cosmopolitan Tradition: A Noble but Flawed Ideal by Martha C. Nussbaum (2019)
How can I learn more about the Levant region and its culture?
You can learn more about the Levant region and its culture by visiting some of the museums, websites, or podcasts that are dedicated to this topic, such as:
The Levantine Heritage Foundation , which aims to preserve and promote the heritage and culture of the Levant.
The Levant Institute , which provides research and education on the history and politics of the Levant.
The Levantine Review , which publishes academic articles and reviews on the Levant and its relations with the world.
The Levant Podcast , which features interviews and discussions with experts and scholars on the Levant.
The Levantine Cultural Center , which organizes events and programs that celebrate the diversity and creativity of the Levant.