Nationalism and the Arabs
Addressing you this evening is, for me, a double privilege. It is my privilege first of all to be asked to join the distinguished company of previous Antonius lecturers, and the Middle East Centre has my gratitude for this. It is also my privilege, and my pleasure, to address the question of Arab nationalism, not least because I shall be drawing on some matters raised by Albert Hourani, who addressed aspects of the same theme in his Antonius Lecture of 1977: I shall thereby make a modest contribution to honouring Albert’s memory, and to signify an intellectual debt owed to him, not only as my teacher in my student days, but as the shaykh that he increasingly became to me afterwards. I shall try this evening to follow him in his quest for clarity and for the long-view: I will take up my reflections in three successive and distinct keys: the first concerns the way in which Arab nationalism is misconstrued for immediate political purposes; I will then move on to examine a crucial moment in the history and scholarship of Arab nationalism — the Arab mutiny of 1917; and finally, I shall try briefly to identify themes of contemporary relevance that emerge from these.
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