As imagined by the West, the Orient was conceived as a land of riches. Tempted by tales of spice, gold, God, and women, Europeans traveled to the region for fame, glory, and conquest. While the Middle East has a deep historical record, the writings in this collection do not focus on the stories and the lives of the indigenous peoples of the region. Rather, they present a picture of the various interactions between the East and the West, interactions that were often dominated by violence and governed by war.
While many of these accounts have been forgotten, obscured by the passage of time, the books here are extremely relevant. The skirmishes, battles, and wars fought between the Ottoman Empire and the various European nations laid the seeds for Turkish and Arab nationalism. European incursion into the holy lands and the myriad conquests of Palestine established a dynamic of colonization that persists today. And the drivers of the unceasing currents of change that seem to periodically rock the Middle East are apparent in all of these events.
It is important, however, that we remember that the Orient has been and is more than just a battleground. The region has its own history and its people have their own destiny; while their voices are muted here, these writings should serve as an overture to further exploration and as a window into how others have imagined the Orient.
The following page showcases a representative sample of the texts that deal with history: