Radio: The Making of the Modern Arab World (BBC Radio 4)


An excellent four part series looking at the history of the Arab world – in particular Eygpt and Syria – from the invasion of Eygpt by Napoleon in 1798 to the present day.

The early history is interesting, but it is the post-war period that is riveting – in particular episode three.  The defeat of colonial powers, a more permissive time especially for women, then war with Israel.  Defeat for the Arab states in the war led to a shift towards Islamism.  This was strengthened by newly oil (and dollar) rich countries such as Saudi Arabia which had stricter religious views. With greater economic influence in the region comes a greater religious influence. All this has only happened in the last 40 years – something of a surprise to me that such a big change actually occurred relatively recently.

More broadly in the area, the series looks at the revolution in Iran and the impact of the war in Afghanistan against the Soviets.

The look at Syria’s recent history puts today’s situation into some context, in that the current leader, President Assad,  is continuing the actions of his father who was leader before him.  This is indeed a vicious circle.

This is the BBC once again at its best – informative and interesting.  I learned a lot.

• BBC Radio 4:  The Making of the Modern Arab World (available indefinitely)

• BBC Radio 4:  Analysis – programmes on Syria



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