Lebanon: A House Divided was written by Mackey in 1989 (under the name: Lebanon: Death of a Nation) as the country entered the final episode of the civil war that devastated Lebanon and was reprinted in 2006 with a short, new preface. The new preface simply lets the reader know that much has happened since the original publication of the book and informs the reader of an upcoming second volume (I assume, Mirror of the Arab World: Lebanon in Conflict by Mackey, published in 2009). Mackey’s book is a wonderful introduction to the tumultuous history of Lebanon and provides the reader with a good base of knowledge for further discovery.
Mackey does an excellent job of breaking down the complex divisions in Lebanese society and tracing each element back to its origins. Any study of Lebanese society runs the risk of tripping over the many intermingling pieces of the intricate jigsaw puzzle of Lebanon. Mackey strips down Lebanon to its religious, ethnic and social core and delves in to the history of each section, going as far back as antiquity to best describe the lasting collective memories of each faction of Lebanese society. Impressively, Mackey successfully describes the mingling influences of Lebanese history and external powers and how the product devolved into a vicious civil war.
Lebanon, while being an easy and informative read, suffers the fate of all history books; notably, history continues and the book does not. Although the book suffers from its age, Mackey has written a second volume (mentioned above) that should ease answer some of the questions left unanswered by the 1989 book. Mackey’s style, though occasionally obtuse, is generally easy to follow and understand. Lebanon should certainly be read by anyone who is interested in Lebanon and its complex society.