Michelle Kung
January 22, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

Three Empires on the Nile, Dominic Green’s riveting historical narrative of the first clash between radical Islam, Arab nationalism, and European interference in the modern era is a stark reminder of the conflicts predating the current Mideast crisis. He examines the rulers of northeast Africa in the 19th century, from Egyptian tyrant Khedive Ismail to the fanatical Muslim ”messiah” Mahdi to the Brit liberators-turned-occupiers. His large, colorful cast of characters includes Sir Garnet Wolseley, a rotund, peppery jingoist who inspired Gilbert and Sullivan’s Major-General — a formidable achievement in itself. A

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