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The Crusades through Arab Eyes (Saqi Essentials) [Paperback]

Amin Maalouf , Jon Rothschild
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 April 1989 Saqi Essentials
The author has combed the works of contemporary Arab chronicles of the Crusades, eyewitnesses and often participants. He retells their story and offers insights into the historical forces that shape Arab and Islamic consciousness today.

Product details

  • Paperback: 293 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken Books; 1st American Ed edition (1 April 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805208984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805208986
  • Product Dimensions: 20.4 x 13.2 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,171,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Well-researched and highly readable.' Guardian 'A useful and important analysis adding much to existing western histories - worth recommending to George Bush.' London Review of Books 'Maalouf tells an inspiring story ... very readable ... warmly recommended.' Times Literary Supplement 'A wide readership should enjoy this vivid narrative of stirring events.' The Bookseller 'Very well done indeed ... Should be put in the hands of anyone who asks what lies behind the Middle East's present conflicts.' Middle East International

About the Author

Amin Maalouf was formerly director of the leading Beirut daily an-Nahar, and the editor of Jeune Afrique. His published works in English translation include Leo the African, Samarkand and Balthasar's Odyssey. He lives in Paris.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Achieved its objective! 18 Nov 2008
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
As the title clearly indicates, this book is an attempt to depict the experience of the crusades through Arab eyes; in my opinion, it succeeded.

Until I read this title, my two favourite works concerning the crusades were 'The first crusade' by Thomas Asbridge and 'The sword and the scimitar' by Ernle Bradford. This book joins that short list.

One of the many bonuses to this title was that it filled a lot of the gaps in the aftermath of July 1099, such as the attempts by the Fatimids to reconquer Jerusalem, how the crusaders conquered Tripoli, Acre, the impact of the Mongols and the Mamluks on Arab civilisation. You come across interesting characters including Saladin, Zangi, Nur-Al-Din, Baybars, Qutuz, to name a few.

If I have any criticism, it is that some bits of information should not be taken at face value. For instance, the author asserts that Richard the Lionheart had Conrad of Montferrat killed by the Assassins - this is speculation at best.

I really enjoyed reading this and have certainly developed a more informed view of the crusades.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book 20 Oct 2008
Amin Maalouf is a good French-Lebanese writer, and this, a translation from the original French, reads very well.

The occasional reviewer who says that it is one-sided is a bit unfair. It is a history of the Crusades from one point of view, as Maalouf says, and as the title makes clear. In writing the book, he says in the introduction, he has deliberately relied almost exclusively on contemporary Arabic sources. Even so, his account is fairly even-handed in that respect. Sometimes he does write as if he is cheering and jeering at the appropriate places in the story, but all even-handed historians, such as Runciman, make it clear that the Crusaders were on the whole a pretty barbaric bunch. Also although Maalouf describes Crusader-Muslim alliances as "bizarre", he makes it clear that as the Crusader kingdoms become stable, they played a role that often cut across religious lines, and few leaders on either side were consistent allies to their co-religionists, nor consistent enemies to those of another faith.

Also, at the end, after detailing the huge amount that the Europeans learnt in science, technology, art, culture, medicine and so on from the Muslim world, he then considers a few things that the Muslim world even at the time could have learnt from the otherwise less advanced west, if they had wished to.

However, the strength of the book doesn't come from its even-handedness. A good history book can be as biased as the writer wants it to be in tone, so long as it is factually accurate. Maalouf's account substantially agrees with (for example) Runciman's history, but fills it out by explaining the debates, the conflicts and the plans that the Muslims had in response to the invasion.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Having read the traditional, Latin focussed, accounts of Runciman and others this book revealed a range of new aspects on the history of the crusader states. Rather than neccessarily contradicting these works it grants an extra depth of understanding, both of the Muslim forces of the period and, indeed, of their Latin opponents.
The book explains the twists and turns of politics with the Muslim states, allowing someone to who has read the Christian focussed histories to build the complete story. The work is written in an engaging and easy style, complete with juicy quotes from the Arab sources.
A selected translated collection of these sources would be a welcome companion to this book but as yet there does not seem to be one in print. Likewise this work stresses again the need for an account of the crusades from the viewpoint of Syrian Christians (Orthodox, Jacobite, Maronite etc.).
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible! 6 Dec 1999
By A Customer
This book, apart from being incredibly entertaining, is historically very accurate. It shows the crusades inscribed in the proccess of economic and material expansion (as well as religious) that Medieval Europe was going through. Although I don't agree with what another reviewer said about the crusades being more about money than about religion. Relgion was just as important as material expansion... they went hand in hand. In the same way, the division of the oriental and occidental church in 1054 was about reaffirming Europe's spiritual independance, which, nonetheless, was a cause of the new technology and increase in population. The book also shows the division in the tukish rule of Islam which is an important factor in the medieval expansion of Europe. Not only Islam was divided (in Spain a similar situation occured), but the Byzantine Empire. The book ends dramatically by describing the invasion of Mongols.
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24 of 29 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book, while a novel, gives invaluable insights into what really might have happened during the Crusades. Malouf presents us with the fact that the Crusades were more about money than they were about God. In what is sometimes a gruesome account, he reveals that the crusaders killed not only Muslims but Jews and Christians of the Oriental denominations. Equally interesting is his unwillingness to let Muslims off the hook. He depicts them as fighting amongst themselves, unable to unite and facing the twilight of their great civilization just as the western star began to rise. In sum, for those who think that the Crusades were about a civilized Christian army beating back a barbarian horde, reading this book will offer you the notion that it was a civilized Muslim world sinking into decay whose contact with the Franks unified them to fight against an unprovoked attempt to colonize in the name of God but in reality for gold.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Brill' Read
Great condition
Published 1 month ago by TJ MCGINN
5.0 out of 5 stars I've read this book before, it was published in ...
I've read this book before, it was published in my native language (Lithuanian) and then I decided to get one in English. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Vytenis Sakalauskas
4.0 out of 5 stars Times change little
I like the details and craziness of the era, as well as, the fact that Syria is currently in the center of the word attention
Published 12 months ago by Haroon Yusuf
5.0 out of 5 stars Indispensable!
Many other revieweres have given their excelent opinion of this book. My opinion is also excellent.
This book is nowadays more needed than ever. Read more
Published 15 months ago by RAMON
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent different perspective.
This book gave a different perspective, and was informative and thought provoking. The invasion of the Franks (or Franj as in this book)is viewed different from the European... Read more
Published 22 months ago by Ms. C. Richmond
5.0 out of 5 stars A great, accessible book for the amateur historian
A great, accessible book for the amateur historian. My interest in medieval history is purely that of a hobbyist but this book does an excellent job of portraying the formative... Read more
Published 24 months ago by Marc D
5.0 out of 5 stars An important book for today's world.
With American involvement in two wars in the Islamic world over the past decade, curious readers often look for parallels between our current world and the era of the Levantine... Read more
Published on 30 May 2012 by Brian Todd Carey
4.0 out of 5 stars The Crusades from a New Perspective
I enjoyed Amin Maalouf's book immensely. I have read several chronicles and histories about parts and the whole of the Crusades. However, there still seemed to be things missing. Read more
Published on 17 April 2012 by JH
5.0 out of 5 stars Love or hate it you cannot ignore this book
Don't be put off by the negative reviews of this work. It is incredibly-well researched and has become an important contribution to our understanding of the Crusades. Read more
Published on 19 Jan 2012 by Mark Stokle
5.0 out of 5 stars From the other side of the proverbial river...
...To use Blasé Pascal's phrase, a short-hand way of referring to the individuals one's leaders designate to be your enemy. Read more
Published on 3 May 2011 by John P. Jones III
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