The Press in the Arab Middle East: A History

Publication Year



Ami Ayalon, Ph.D. 1980

Named an Outstanding Academic Book for 1995 by Choice

Newspapers and the practice of journalism began in the Middle East in the nineteenth century and evolved during a period of accelerated sociopolitical and cultural change. Inspired by a foreign model, the Arab press developed in its own way, in terms of its political and social roles, cultural function, and the public image of those who engaged in it. Ami Ayalon draws on a broad array of primary sources--a century of Arabic newspapers, biographies and memoirs of Arab journalists and politicians, and archival material--as well as a large body of published studies, to portray the remarkable vitality of Arab journalism. He explores the press as a Middle Eastern institution during its formative century before World War II and the circumstances that shaped its growth, tracing its impact, in turn, on local historical developments. After treating the major phases in chronological sequence, he looks closely at more specific aspects: the relations between press and state; newspapers and their audience; the press and traditional cultural norms; economic aspects of the trade; and journalism as a new profession in Arab society.


1. State Bulletins

2. Enthusiastic Beginnings: The Private Press, 1855–188

3. The Private Press, 1882–1918

4. The Arab States and the Press, 1918–1945

5. Press, State, and the Question of Freedom

6. The Reader

7. Cultural Legacy and the Challenge of the Press

8. The Economic Angle: The Press as Merchandise and as Enterprise

9. The Craft of the Arab Journalist


“Contains a wealth of information on the nature, development, and progress of this rarefied topic in historical scholarship....This competently researched, very well written, and elegantly produced study throws bright light on its subject matter, not only as a particular item in the inventory of Arab culture, but also as an institution that exists within overall socio-political and economic systems of varied though closely related polities....Wholeheartedly recommended.”--CHOICE

“This is the first book-length study in English about the subject...this is a very well-researched book, valuable for its substantive analyses, organization, and exhaustive bibliography. Compared with other studies in Western languages on the subject, it is a big step forward.”--International Journal of Middle East Studies

“...Ayalon provides us with a much-needed general survey of the press in the Arab world and also with much detail on individual newspapers and journalists...Ayalon shows an admirable mastery of his subject...This is a work that will be much referred to by students and scholars in years to come.”--American Historical Review

“[T]his is a well written book with a wealth of information”--Journal of Palestine Studies

“Anyone with an interest in the media and politics in the Middle East will treasure Ayalon's thorough history of the rise of print media in the Arab world...Scholars will want this book in their personal libraries...”--Religious Studies Review

Series Title
Studies in Middle Eastern History
Oxford University Press
New York