Dr Philip Mansel, the owner of Smedmore House, is an historian who specialises in writing about France and the Ottoman Empire. He is currently finishing a book about Louis 14th of France.
Aleppo: the rise and fall of Syria’s merchant city
This is the first history about the ancient, global, trading city of Aleppo written in English. Historically the city was never especially religious. It contained Muslims, Christians and Jews who lived together in relative harmony until 2011. Now Aleppo is called ‘the worst place in the world’. Bombed by its own government as well as rebel militias, most of the population has fled. People from Aleppo now live everywhere in the world except their own city. Aleppo is a warning to other cities. If politics and economics go wrong, even the the most peaceful city can become hell on earth – faster than we imagine.
Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean
The first history in English of Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut in the modern age, this book demonstrates that they were ‘windows on the West’, inhabited by Muslims, Christians and Jews. It also shows the vulnerability of these cosmopolitan cities: in the twentieth century, Smyrna was burnt; Alexandria Egyptianised; Beirut lacerated by civil war.
The history of the Middle East between 1869 and 1945 is also the story of its monarchs and dynasties. In 1869, the Ottoman Sultan ruled a powerful empire stretching from the Danube to the Gulf, at whose heart lay one of the largest and most cosmopolitan cities in the world: Constantinople, the city of the Sultans.