Format Hardcover
Publication Date 07/02/24
ISBN 9781639366965
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 432

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The House Divided

Sunni, Shia and the Making of the Middle East

Barnaby Rogerson

An incisive look at the past, present, and future of the religious divide that lies at the heart of the Middle East.

At the heart of the Middle East, with its regional conflicts and proxy wars, is a 1400-year-old schism between Sunni and Shia. To understand this divide and its modern resonances, we need to revisit its origins—which go back to the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632; the accidental coup that set aside the claims of his son Ali; and the slaughter of Ali's own son Husayn at Karbala. These events, known to every Muslim, have created a slender faultline in the Middle East.

The House Divided follows these narratives from the first Sunni and Shia caliphates through the medieval empires of the Arabs, Persians, and Ottomans to the contemporary Middle East. It shows how a complex range of identities and rivalries—religious, ethnic, and national—have shaped the region, jolted by the seismic shift of the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

Rogerson's original approach takes the modern chessboard of nation states and looks at each through its particular history of empires and occupiers, minorities and resources, sheikhs and imams. The result is wide-ranging empathy, understanding, and insight—a book that is vital for anyone wishing to understand many of the current tensions in the Middle East today.

Barnaby Rogerson is an author, publisher, and journalist. He co-runs Eland Publishing, which specializes in keeping the classics of travel literature in print. Barnaby has also written dozens of travel articles, book reviews, and historical essays on various North African and Islamic themes, for Vanity FairCornucopiaCondé Nast TravellerGeographical, the Guardian, the Independent, the TelegraphHouse & GardenHarpers & Queen, and the Times Literacy Supplement. He lives in London.

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Endorsements & Reviews

"A history told with verve by a traveler, addressed to readers who may know little about the Middle East besides what they’ve seen on the TV news. To call this book 'timely' given recent events would be glib; as Rogerson shows, such history has been timely for centuries. We in the West ought to understand the Middle East better than we do. This book calls not for partisanship or simple conclusions, but imagination, empathy, and a willingness to learn. The House Divided is a rich and revealing book with which to start discovering the complexities and contemporary import of Middle Eastern history." Camilla Cassidy, The Daily Telegraph
“The author does an eloquent job of linking history to contemporary issues. Anyone who wants to understand the Middle East will find the book informative, timely, and accessible. Rogerson’s firsthand experience provides an authenticity often missing from discussions of the Middle East and Islam.”  Kirkus Reviews
"Barnaby Rogerson, a publisher, writer and lifelong traveler in the Islamic world, is an accomplished guide through this confusing terrain. There is much to admire here. Rogerson’s range, both historical and geographical, is impressive. A highly readable, lovingly researched, romantic and engaging history." The Spectator
"A masterly engagement with the most delicate and important of subjects—filled with gentle empathy, learning and rare balance.” Rory Stewart, author of How Not to Be a Politician
"Rogerson is an original—eloquent and always fascinating.” William Dalrymple, author of The Anarchy
"This book is a tour de force. One of the best summary histories of Islam from its beginnings until today I have come across. Informative, engaging, and excitingly written, it is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the origins and development of a great world religion.” Ghada Karmi, author of In Search of Fatima
"A lucid, vivid and sweeping history of the divisions within Islam and their destructive impact on the contemporary Muslim world. Barnaby Rogerson takes you to the heart of the arguments and battles, revealing some stark truths. This is history as a living entity. A dazzling achievement.” Ziauddin Sardar, author of In Search of Mecca
"Rogerson is a master storyteller, equally at home sketching the intimacies of the Prophet's household as he is illuminating geopolitical trends across the world of contemporary Islam.” Matthew Teller, author of Nine Quarters of Jerusalem
"Rogerson knows that things are much more complex than Sunni versus Shia. But in its depiction of the multiple cats' cradles of tensions, The House Divided is jauntily readable and thought-provoking about a Middle East still in the middle of global crises, and still, as so often, misunderstood.” Tim Mackintosh-Smith, author of Arabs: A 3,000-Year History of Peoples, Tribes and Empires