Levant is a book of cities. It describes Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut when they were windows on the world, escapes from nationality and tradition, centres of wealth, pleasure and freedom. Using unpublished family papers, Philip Mansel describes their colourful, contradictory history, from the beginning of the French alliance with the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century to their decline in the mid twentieth century. Smyrna was burnt; Alexandria Egyptianised; Beirut lacerated by civil war.
Philip Mansel is a historian of France and the Ottoman Empire. He has written histories of Constantinople and nineteenth-century Paris, as well as biographies of Louis XVIII and the Prince de Ligne. Six of his books have been translated into French. He writes for the Art Newspaper, the Times Literary Supplement and The Spectator. While writing Levant, he lived in Beirut and Istanbul. In 2012 Philip Mansel was awarded the prestigious London Library Life in Literature Award in recognition of the quality of both his writing and his scholarship.