The long-term geopolitics of the pre-modern Middle East

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The geopolitical shape of the Middle East has varied greatly over time. This article is concerned with the period from Late Antiquity to the end of the eighteenth century, during which four basic configurations succeeded each other. Late Antiquity was marked by the coexistence of two large empires, one based in the western Middle East and the other in the eastern Middle East; the early Islamic period saw the dominance of a single empire the location of whose centre was unstable; the medieval period was characterised by the absence of large and lasting empires and a shifting plurality of smaller states; finally in the Ottoman period we see the renewed dominance of a single empire, now based in the western Middle East. Are these changes to be seen as random fluctuations, or can they be explained in terms of a small number of underlying factors? The point of this article is to argue that a focus on the potential imperial heartlands of the Middle East can help us to explain much - though not all - of the changing geopolitical configuration of the region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-41
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Royal Asiatic Society
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • General Arts and Humanities


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