Democracy in the Levant, c.1936-1958

09 March 2022

All too often, the history of Arab democracy is considered one of failure and absence. This talk, however, suggests that a glance back at the history of the Arab twentieth century reveals a strong and consistent interest in the potential of democracy. Building on recent scholarship, it argues that representative democracy and parliamentary institutions were central to the projects of political actors across the ideological spectrum in the mid-twentieth-century Levant. Pan-Arabists, Islamists, and Christian democrats, women as well as men, intellectuals and trade unionists as much as elite notables – all envisioned a democratic future of self-determination, development, social justice, and popular sovereignty.    

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About the speaker: 

Andrew Arsan is Professor of Arab and Mediterranean History in the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, and a Fellow of St John’s College. A political, cultural, and intellectual historian of the modern Middle East, he is the author of Lebanon: A Country in Fragments (2018) and Interlopers of Empire: The Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial West Africa (2014), and the editor, with Cyrus Schayegh, of the Routledge Handbook of the History of the History of the Middle East Mandates (2015). He is currently working on a new history of political thought and action in the twentieth-century Arab world, for publication with Allen Lane and Basic Books.

Media and webinar recordings

In this interview, CBRL’s Director Carol Palmer speaks to Andrew Arsan about his research on the twentieth century history of the Levant with a focus on the potential for Arab democracy.