Despite the centuries-old relations between France and the Levant, and although during the Mandate period the destinations for France and Syria were linked, the recent history of Syria was for a long time overlooked by French research. However, the country occupies a more prominent position in the Arab world than its population numbers or economic resources would suggest. Its geographical position, its long historical history, the quality and permanence of its cultural tradition have made it one of the poles of Arab nationalism, and has sometimes played a very heavy role in the events in the Middle East today. Thanks, in particular, to the French Institute of Arab Studies in Damascus and the National Centre for Scientific Research, many researchers are now working on contemporary Syria and have helped to raise awareness of it through work that is relevant to the main fields of research, geography, history, sociology, economics, politics. The Centre d’Etudes et de Recherche sur l’Orient Arabe Contemporain d’Aix-en-Provence, whose activity covers the whole of the Arab Middle East, took the initiative to prepare this collective book with the help of some of these researchers. Specialists in Syria sought to highlight the fundamental factors that explain Syria’s current development, the characteristics of its political, economic and social options (Ba’thist socialism, planned development) and its role in the Arab world and in contemporary politics.