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The Crusades Through Arab Eyes: Folio Edition Hardcover – 2012


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  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: The Folio Society Ltd (2012)
  • ASIN: B00HM9LGLO
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,390,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 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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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Too many books on 20 Oct 2008
Format: Paperback
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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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By J A Buchanan on 28 May 2003
Format: Paperback
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 By A Customer on 6 Dec 1999
Format: Paperback
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Red Hood on 7 Oct 2009
Format: Paperback
As someone new to the events of the Crusades, I had a general impression that was left from western tv and movies.
This book gives an open and believably fair account of the Crusades. While it does not go into much detail as to where the Crusaders came from, it very clearly shows the various alliances that were created between various arab groups, as well as their own internal squabbling and betrayals.

This is a very balance book, and the author writes with a clear narrative style making it all the more accessible.

I recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in where the West's relationship with the Arab world has come from.
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