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"The Arab world has not been a happy or successful place in the last fifty years, and the misery and disenchantment of the people has recently become acute." So reads the first line of Inside the Arab World; most of the large volume that follows buttresses and amplifies this statement. Field, a journalist, reviews the history of Arabic-speaking countries since World War I, then provides a survey of current issues (economics, democracy, Arab-Israeli conflict, relations with the West). His information appears to rely in large part on his many trips to the Arab countries over a twenty-seven-year period.

The result is a well-informed and timely survey. Some of Field's hard-hitting opinions make a whole lot more sense than others. Yes, he's right that "[t]he Arab world has become a more sober and realistic place since the mid-1980s." No, he's completely wrong that "religion is not the cause of conflicts but provides a rallying point for conflicts that are basically economic or political." Of particular interest is the chapter on the Saudi economy, where Field argues that the manufacturing businesses have become commercially viable.

It is nearly impossible to tell the extent to which Field relies on other authors' writings for he provides hardly a single citation. That raises a question about the publisher: however skillfully done, why does a university press put out such a nonscholarly essay by a knowledgeable insider? Is there no distinction now between a trade publisher and a university press?