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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 Using unpublished family papers, Philip Mansel describes their colourful, contradictory history, from the beginning of the French alliance with the Ottoman Empire in the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.