Syria's descent into civil war has already claimed an estimated 200,000 lives while more than nine million people have fled their homes. This is now the greatest humanitarian and political crisis of the twenty-first century. In this timely account, John McHugo considers why Syria's foundations as a nation have proved so fragile, providing a richly layered analysis of a country few in the West know or understand. Charting the history of Syria from the First World War to the present, McHugo examines the country's thwarted attempts at independence and the French policies that sowed the seeds of internal strife. He then turns to more recent events: religious and sectarian tensions that have riven Syria, the pressures of international conflicts, two generations of rule by the Assads and the rise of Isis. As the Syrian civil war draws Western powers into the Middle East once again, here is a rare and authoritative guide to a complex nation that demands our attention.