The Quality of Arab Nationalism
An inquiry into the quality of Arab nationalism surely would have struck George Antonius as an absurd undertaking. To him, the Arab nation was a given needing no explanation.1 The givenness of nationalism was the common belief in his milieu. An eminent contemporary, the historian R. W. Seton-Watson, depicted modern Balkan history just as Antonius was later to relate Arab history.2 Antonius wrote from the perspective of an Arab with a British establishment education. By one current common historiographical standard, he rates high marks. One who does not accept this standard must nevertheless assign him considerable credit. Antonius was the first to provide in a European language an account of Arab politics undertaken in the name of Arabism that was based on authentic first-hand sources. The Arab Awakening is the starting point of virtually all Western scholarly studies of the subject; it certainly was my starting point. Although Antonius’s book narrates, usually correctly, the activities of persons who acted declaredly as members of and on behalf of the Arab nation, it does not go beyond such activities in search of information about associated activities and conditions.
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