Lynne Rienner Publishers Logo

Fragile Nation, Shattered Land: The Modern History of Syria

James A. Reilly
Fragile Nation, Shattered Land: The Modern History of Syria
ISBN: 978-1-62637-749-3
ISBN: 978-1-62637-992-3
ISBN: 978-1-62637-999-2
2021/258 pages/LC: 2018039381
Paperback now available!
Originally published in hardcover in 2019.
"Likely to be the best book published on Syria in a long time.... Outstanding."— Michael Provence, University of California, San Diego

"Distills half a millennium of conflict and shifting alliances into a clear, eminently readable work that demystifies the origins and fault lines of the current crisis in Syria…. An essential book for anyone seeking to understand the modern Middle East." —Publishers Weekly

"Reilly's Fragile Nation, Shattered Land is a gem.... almost every page delivers a sparkling insight set off by a simple and elegant style. This book should be read by anyone wishing to understand the deeper social and cultural dimensions of Syria's modern crisis." — Joshua Landis, University of Oklahoma
"An epic history of modern Syria, this book is vital to understanding the roots of what has become the most devastating conflict of the 21st century." —Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept
"With his deep understanding of Syria, James Reilly has produced a masterpiece that illuminates the country’s convoluted past and tragic present…. If there is one book you have to read about Syria to better understand the reasons behind its fragility, this is it." —Omer Taspinar, US National War College and the Brookings Institution


How did the lands that are today Syria survive the vicissitudes of centuries of Ottoman, Egyptian, and French rule, only to stand in ruins today, shattered by a brutal civil war? To provide answers, James Reilly traces five centuries of Syrian history, from the Ottoman period to the present.

Reilly brings to life the myriad historical, cultural, social, economic, and political factors that have bound Syrians together, as well as those that have torn them apart. Drawing on extensive primary sources and recent historiography in English, French, and Arabic, he has written an essential book for those who want to understand not only contemporary Syria, but also the Middle East region.


James A. Reilly is professor of history at the University of Toronto. His previous publications include A Small Town in Syria and The Ottoman Cities of Lebanon.


  • Introduction.
  • Syria Becomes Ottoman, Sixteenth to Seventeenth Centuries.
  • Syria's "Long" Eighteenth Century: Political Crises and Local Rulers.
  • Syria Between Europe and the Ottomans, 1820s-1900s
  • The Idea of Syria and World War I.
  • France and the Creation of the Syrian Territorial State.
  • Crises of Independent Statehood.
  • Thirty Years of Hafez al-Assad.
  • A False "Spring" and Gathering Storms. 
  • Uprising, Civil War, and Fragmentation.
  • Syria Divided.
The US and US dependencies, Canada, and the Philippines only