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Fall Reception 2009

Distinguished Alumni Series: Dr. Eugene Rogan
Themes from The Arabs: A History

The latest in our Distinguished Alumni Series took place at the Harvard Center for Middle Eastern Studies, on Sunday, November 22nd; the reception started at  5:30pm and the talk at 6:15pm.

Our speaker, Eugene Rogan, is a Faculty Fellow and University Lecturer in the Modern History of the Middle East at St Antony’s College, Oxford, where he serves as Director of the Middle East Centre. His long-awaited compendium of the Arab world, The Arabs: A History was published on November 3rd (Basic Books) and has already received several favorable reviews.  His previous work, Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire, was judged by the Middle East Studies Association of North America to be the best book on the Middle East of 2000 and awarded the Albert Hourani Prize.

As A History argues, the Arabs have lived their lives by other peoples’ rules since the sixteenth century. For over three hundred years, they operated under the sway of the Turks as part of the Ottoman Empire. In the wake of Ottoman collapse came British and French colonization, followed in turn by the new and unwelcome conditions imposed by the superpower rivalry of the Cold War. The collapse of the Soviet Union left the Arabs facing a unipolar order dominated by the United States, and deterioration in Arab-American relations since September 11, 2001 has left the Arab world more vulnerable than at any point in its modern history.


This popular (indeed oversubscribed) event filled the venue with about 40 guests, including some from the ESU.

Eugene Rogan gave a fascinating talk that kept the audience riveted. His talk had three equally interesting parts:

(1) Autobiographical journey from California to Paris to Beruit, Cairo then Columbia University as an undergraduate majoring (badly) in economics; finally Harvard where he found his metier in Middle Eastern Studies then on to Oxford at a time of generational change at the Middle East Centre of St. Anthony's College Oxford where he has thrived for the past 18 years.

(2) Middle East Centre's origins with Professor Hourani and his dream team; what the current state is and plans for future growth under Rogan's directorship.

(3) History of the Arabs (his book) in the Modern Age with four distinct phases: Ottoman Conquest, Post WWI Colonization, Post WWII Cold War, Post Soviet Breakup until September 11, 2001.  A number of the attendees brought copies of his book which he autographed.
Rogan's talk ended around 7:15 leaving just enough times for some discussion. People left at the end of the event with appetites whetted for reading their newly autographed copies of the book.

Steve McCarthy                                                        Reception: 5:30pm

Stephen J. McCarthy, Corpus Christi (Oxon.),                                   Talk: 6:15pm

President of the Society                                                                  Location: Harvard CMES