Since you probably have more time on your hands than ever, why not pick up a book on Lebanese history? You know you’ve always wanted to learn more about your country than what your elders remember or what your school’s history classes taught you (or not). What better time than 45-years after the civil war began?
Hopefully, these books can offer an objective look into the cultural history of Lebanon.
#1 Robert Fisk – Pity the Nation
English writer/journalist Robert Fisk has been the Middle East correspondent for The Independent since 1989, and for other media in years before that.
In 1990, he published a book on the Lebanese Civil War, which he experienced first hand while living in Beirut where he was based.
The title of the book calls back to Khalil Gibran’s poem from The Garden of the Prophet:
“Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and empty of religion. Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, and eats a bread it does not harvest.
Pity the nation that acclaims the bully as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
Pity a nation that despises a passion in its dream, yet submits in its awakening.
Pity the nation that raises not its voice, save when it walks in a funeral, boasts not except among its ruins, and will rebel not save when its neck is laid between the sword and the block.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking
Pity the nation that welcomes its new ruler with trumpeting, and farewells him with hooting, only to welcome another with trumpeting again.
Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years, and whose strongmen are yet in the cradle.
Pity the nation divided into fragments, each fragment deeming itself a nation.”
#2 Sandra Mackey – Lebanon A House Divided
Lebanon A House Divided is the work of American writer Sandra Mackey. Veteran journalist Mackey has written many books on Middle Eastern politics. Her book Lebanon A House Divided critically untangles the civil war and the events leading to it with a focus on the social situation rather than the political one.
Publisher’s Weekly says, “The author is bluntly critical of the Lebanese for their unwillingness to accept responsibility for the fate of their country, which she calls ‘a truculent parody of a nation.'”
#3 Fawwaz Traboulsi – A History of Modern Lebanon
Published in 2007, Fawwaz Traboulsi’s A History of Modern Lebanon is a captivating book illustrating the history of Lebanon over five centuries.
The book’s description writes: “Skillfully weaving together social, political, cultural, and economic history, this deeply informed and penetrating study provides a rich understanding of the vibrant, tragic, but ever hopeful Lebanon.”
Traboulsi teaches history and politics at the Lebanese American University (LAU) in Beirut.
#4 Philip K. Hitti – A Short History of Lebanon
A Lebanese-American professor at prestigious American universities, Hitti attempted to create a brief account of Lebanon. He has written several books that aim to bring Middle Eastern history to the West. One of his most notable works is the book History of the Arabs.
#5 David Hirst – Beware of Small States: LEBANON, Battleground of the Middle East
The former Middle East correspondent for the Guardian, David Hirst, is based in Beirut and was quite a controversial journalist.
In his book Beware of Small States, Hirst runs over the history of Lebanon as well as describes Lebanon’s complex role in the prevailing regional conflict.
“His book is, above all, apolemic against Israeli policy, and indeed most manifestations of Zionism,” says Newsweek.
#6 Harris, William Wilson – Lebanon: a history, 600-2011 (Studies In Middle Eastern History)
Author William W. Harris “offers a fresh perspective on the antecedents of modern multi-communal Lebanon, tracing the consolidation of Lebanon’s Christian, Muslim, and Islamic derived sects from their origins between the sixth and eleventh centuries.”
A Reddit user shared this list of Lebanese history books and was generous enough to share the download link for each. If you’re lucky, you can still download the books from links here before the free offer expires.