© 2016

From the First World War to the Arab Spring

What’s Really Going On in the Middle East?

  • Authors

Part of the Middle East Today book series (MIET)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xiii
  2. Introduction

    1. M. E. McMillan
      Pages 1-5
  3. The Tangled Web: Why the Great Powers of Europe Became Involved in the Middle East

  4. Too Many Straight Lines on the Map: Where, When, and Why It Started to Go Wrong

  5. All or Nothing: Why All Roads Lead to Jerusalem

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 107-107
    2. M. E. McMillan
      Pages 109-112
    3. M. E. McMillan
      Pages 113-127
    4. M. E. McMillan
      Pages 129-144
  6. Kings, Colonels, and Coups: Why There Is a Democratic Deficit in the Arab World

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 145-145

About this book


Offering a comprehensive, up-to-date examination of the complex web of wars and proxy wars, revolutions and counter-revolutions that are ripping the Middle East apart, this book puts these events in their historical context and leads readers through the labyrinth that is the new Middle East.  This book seeks answers to pressing, contentious questions.  Why are there so many hereditary heads of state in the Middle East when the Prophet Muhammad did not appoint a successor?  Why do Western countries claim to want democracy in the Middle East, yet support dictators?  Why did Israel become a democracy while the Arab states did not?  Why are there so many wars in the Middle East?  And, most importantly, what happened to the hope and optimism of the Arab Spring?  M.E. McMillan offers fresh answers to these difficult questions.  Firmly grounded in historical research and insightful analysis of current events, this book gives readers a new understanding of what’s really going on in the Middle East.


First World War Arab Spring Imperialism in the Middle East Political Islam Democratic deficit in the Arab world Sacred versus the secular Israel Palestine Anti-Semitism Jerusalem Dictatorship versus democracy The cult of personality Iranian revolution ISIL Extremism Monarchy Military conflict conflicts democracy dictatorship Europe Islam Middle East Nation politics religion revolution Salem

About the authors

M. E. McMillan is author of Fathers and Sons: The Rise and Fall of Political Dynasty in the Middle East and the acclaimed The Meaning of Mecca: The Politics of Pilgrimage in Early Islam. She has worked as a translator for the United Nations in New York and Geneva.

Bibliographic information

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“This book is an enjoyable read, one that would satisfy a large range of readers. … a succinct, well written and engaging narrative, offering a clear and lucid discussion of the last 100 years. As such, this work will be certainly beneficial for general readers and undergraduate students.” (Roberto Mazza, First World War Studies, Vol. 9 (3), August, 2019)

“McMillan effortlessly stimulates readers by retelling how a contingent event or one person’s small decision has surprisingly altered and significantly sealed the fate of the Middle East from the outbreak of the First World War. … Nevertheless, From the First … Middle East? remains an invaluable addition to the field of Middle East Studies and democratization studies. … the unique contribution of this book should also be of interest to scholars in the field of the Global South.” (Wai Yip Ho, Bandung: Journal of the Global South, December, 2018)

“The book’s wealth of historical and contextual background allows for an empirically rich analysis of the major historical events.  McMillan has produced a work of exceptional lucidity that scholars, students and policy makers alike will consult for years to come. It is a valuable contribution to academia as well as highly recommended reading for the generalist, who will find it compelling and informative.” (Ahmed Sajjad, Middle East Policy, Vol. 24 (3), 2017)  

“I would certainly recommend it. It is clear, well written and accurate, but above all balanced and sympathetic, and a great place to start.” (Hugh Kennedy, Times Higher Education,, May, 2016)

“M. E. McMillan has written a cultural and political history with the clear and objective language of unbiased journalism. … McMillan succeeds admirably in presenting readers with a complete yet concise briefing on the last fifteen hundred years. … It is a truly brilliant piece of writing.” (Hubert O’Hearn, San Diego Book Review,, December, 2015)