MESA Book Awards
Michael Christopher Low
Iowa State University
2021 Albert Hourani Book Award Winner
Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj
Columbia University Press
Michael Christopher Low’s study of late nineteenth-century Mecca is a fascinating account of the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca amid the transformations wrought by Ottoman modernity and European colonial ambitions. Drawing on a wide range of archives in Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, Low delves into bureaucratic practices, surveillance, disease control, and global transportation in rich and engaging detail. The book manages to be both a local history of Mecca and a global history that foregrounds non-Western institutions and actors. This is a page-turner that weaves together several fields of modern history, particularly practices of state formation and the interaction between Western and non-Western forms of empire.