Syria (which in its historical wider sense includes modern Syria, Lebanon, Israel/Palestine and Jordan) has always been at the centre of events of world importance. It was in this region that pastoral-stock rearing, settled agriculture and alphabetic writing were invented (and the dog domesticated). From Syria, Phoenician explorers set out to explore the whole Mediterranean region and sailed round Africa 2,000 years before Vasco de Gama. These are achievements enough but the succeeding centuries offer a rich tapestry of turbulent change, a cycle of repeated conquest, unification, rebellion and division. John D Grainger gives a sweeping overview (though replete with telling details) of the making of this historical region. From the end of the ice age through the procession of Assyrian, Phoenician, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Turkish, French and British attempts to dominate this area, the key events and influences are clearly explained and analysed. The events playing out on our TV screens over recent years are put in the context of 12,000 years of history.