It is viewed as the foundational textbook of the history of modern Arab nationalism. According to Martin Kramer , The Arab Awakening "became the preferred textbook for successive generations of British and American historians and their students". He argued that the Arab nation which consists of racial and cultural-linguistic elements was "dormant" for centuries, and that institutions established by Protestant missionaries and educators from the United States had a specific role in the renewal and "awakening" of Arabic as a national language. He saw the role of the American University of Beirut originally the Syrian Protestant College as central to this development, although he noted that by the end of the 19th century that role had diminished because the college initiated instruction in English. According to Antonius, American missionaries, educators and institutions played a critical role in the development of American soft power during the Edwardian era and after World War I.
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He is the son of Habib Antonius. He completed his primary and secondary school education at Victoria College, Alexandria — Between and , he worked as a war correspondent with the British forces in Egypt. At the end of the war he went to Palestine where he worked in the British administration in the Public Services Department; he soon quit that job. In he was appointed deputy to the Director of Education in Palestine where he sought to reform the Department of Education; he submitted several reports and recommendations to that end, but these were not approved by the British High Commissioner.
That same year he was awarded the Commander of the British Empire distinction. In he became an unofficial adviser for local affairs to the British High Commissioner in Palestine and began working on his magnum opus, a history of the origins of Arab nationalism.
During the years and , Antonius was working on his history book as the General Strike and the Great Palestinian Rebellion unfolded. In early he appeared before the Peel Commission as a witness.
The commission had arrived in Palestine to investigate the causes of the revolt. In his statement to that commission, Antonius emphasized British partiality toward the Zionists. In July of the same year he criticized the partition scheme proposed by that commission in its report.
Antonius completed The Arab Awakening in , while living in Egypt. This continues to be a classic text in modern Arab history and has been translated into Arabic and several other languages. In , Antonius was appointed secretary of the Palestinian delegation to the London Round Table conference and acted as adviser to the other Arab delegations, becoming the driving force behind that conference.
He lived in Beirut but would travel to Egypt and Palestine from time to time. In , he visited Iraq. By the time he returned to Beirut, he was sick and spent the summer of that year in hospital. He died in Jerusalem in and was buried in the Zion cemetery. Author, man of letters, and politician, George Antonius was a man of great intellectual power, perspicacity, and logical thought. He had a superb command of both English and French and was greatly dignified in bearing and speech.
He was a confidante of Haj Amin al-Husseini. His book, The Arab Awakening, caused a great stir in western quarters interested in the Arab world.
Abdul Hadi, Mahdi, ed. Palestinian Personalities: A Biographic Dictionary. Jerusalem: Passia Publication, Silsby Boyle, Susan. Oxford: Westview Press, Related Content.
The Arab Awakening
The Arab awakening : the story of the Arab national movement