Barnaby Rogerson on the making of the Middle East

Barnaby Rogerson (Photo by Tom Bunning, October 2014)

The Arab conquest was a decisive event in the history of the Mediterranean, but it is also one of the least understood.

Today this region is plagued by endless conflicts and proxy wars between nations that can look more similar than different to the outside observer.

Its greatest internal fault line is the split between Sunni and Shia Islam — a split that began with the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

Why did this schism happen?

How have two rival interpretations of history shaped the contemporary Middle East?

Which ethnic and linguistic divisions are at the heart of current geopolitical struggles for dominance in the region?

Today’s guest will guide us through these confusing waters.

Barnaby Rogerson is the author of The House Divided: Sunni, Shia and the Making of the Middle East, The Prophet Muhammad: A Biography, and The Last Crusaders. His work has appeared in Geographical, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Conde Nast Traveller, The Times Literary Supplement, and many other publications. 

In addition to being a gifted writer he’s also co-publisher of Eland books. The home of such greats as Dervla Murphy and Norman Lewis, this essential British institution has been resurrecting lost travel classics and keeping them in print for more than 35 years.

You can read more about Barnaby on his website, and follow him on Twitter.

We spoke about the origins of the Sunni-Shia schism, the differences between them, and the current ethnic and linguistic rivalries plaguing the Middle East.

These are the books we mentioned in the podcast:

We also mentioned:

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About the author

Ryan Murdock

Author of A Sunny Place for Shady People and Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America. Host of Personal Landscapes podcast. Editor-at-Large (Europe) for Canada's Outpost magazine. Writer at The Shift. Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

1 Comment

  • Check out the impact that Gertrude Margaret Lowthian Bell (aka Queen of the Desert) made on that part of the world. It is extraordinary how she helped influence the lines in the sand to create the kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire among other event of the time.


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