Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Review: Regime Change in the Ancient Near East and Egypt: From Sargon of Agade to Saddam Hussein

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Review by Gary Beckman)

Harriet Crawford (ed.), Regime Change in the Ancient Near East and Egypt: From Sargon of Agade to Saddam Hussein. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

One of the tasks of the historian is to elucidate change in past societies. Indeed, unless he or she is concerned with a temporally quite narrow slice of the past, consideration of change lies at the very heart of the historian's work. But, of course, change occurs (or better, may be observed) at different rates in various areas of any particular culture--in political leadership, ideological structures, economics, technologies, etc.

The task set by the organizers of the conference whose presentations form the basis of the volume here under review was to examine the continuities that might persist across political upheavals in states of the Old World. Convened in London in September 2004, the meeting was originally entitled "Steady States," but perhaps in light of the currency that the phrase "regime change" has achieved in the recent rhetorical armory of American foreign policy, it is these words that are featured in the book's ultimate title.

Contemporary concerns undoubtedly also led to the inclusion as an afterword of an essay not presented on the London program, Peter Sluglett's overview of regime change in Iraq. Of the pieces from the original roster, six deal with ancient Mesopotamia, four with pharaonic Egypt, and one each with early Islamic Iran and Egypt.

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