Historical Perspective on the Arab Spring

April 08, 2013 // 4:00pm5:30pm

Historically, the series of modern revolutions beginning with the American and the French at the end of the eighteenth century led to the attempts to replace ancient and dictatorial systems of government by new, constitutional governments legitimated by a popular election. In the Middle East, a parallel pattern can be seen in the history of the first Middle Eastern constitutional revolutions in the political movements of the 1870s. What does an examination of the role of constitutionalism in the Arab revolutions of 1923-2011 reveal about prospects for constitutional governments in the Middle East? The question will be answered in the context of the three Arab revolutions in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, all in the past two years.   

Roger Owen is the former Director of the Middle Eastern Centre, St. Antony’s College, Oxford, and the present Professor of Middle Eastern History at Harvard University. His books include The Middle East in the World Economy, (1981) and, with Roger Louis, Suez 1956 (1989). His recent works include Lord Cromer: Victorian Imperialist, Edwardian Proconsul (2004), and The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life (2012). 

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