Masters explores the history of Christians and Jews in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman empire and how their identities as non-Muslims evolved over four hundred years. At the start of this period, in the sixteenth century, social community was circumscribed by religious identity and non-Muslims lived within the hierarchy established by Muslim law. In the nineteenth century, however, in response to Western influences, a radical change took place. Conflict erupted between Muslims and Christians in different parts of the empire in a challenge to that hierarchy. This marked the beginning, as the author illustrates, of the tensions which have to a large extent inspired the nationalist and religious rhetoric in the empire's successor states throughout the twentieth century. In this way, Masters negotiates the present through the past. His book will make a major contribution to an understanding of the political and religious conflicts of the modern Middle East.