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on 28 June 2012
This is the earliest chronologically of a series of surveys of Middle Eastern history, and as such suffers from a lack of verifiable sources, particularly for the tine of Muhammad. Despite this, Hugh Kennedy presents a credible account in the first two-thirds of his book of the context of the early 7th century, the birth of the Muslim states and its expansion under the early caliphs, and the rise and fall of the Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates. This section also includes a review of Muslim political structures and of the formation and development of Shi'ism. This part is very useful and has a good narrative structure, although a rather more analysis might have been helpful.

The last third of the book is harder to read, as each of its five chapters deals with a particular region and it rather difficult to keep track of what is happening in different places at the same time. This and the absence of much on cultural developments are the only weaknesses in a book which is a very useful survey of early Islamic history.
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on 14 March 2006
This work is a very useful historical survey of the major political developments that marked the classical era of Islamicate civilisation. I found it a very useful companion to other works that concentrate upon the cultural, social and intellectual aspects of Muslim history for example the works of Ira Lapidus and Marshall G Hodgson. Although it is a specialist work it has a clear narrative structure which allows for a degree of comparative analysis between the different regions covered by the study. Whilst it might be true to describe it as being a little dry and academic I consider this to be a strength and would certainly prefer it over more populist works of narrative history for example Bernard Lewis and the sensationalist revisionist accounts propounded by writers such as Patricia Crone and Wilfred Madelung. He does not seek to make reductive connections between historical effects and essential psychological or cultural causes which is refreshing and only adds to its overall authorativeness. I would recommend it to any reader who is genuinely interested in understanding the complexity of early Islamic history and its hightly contested and ideological character.
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on 17 October 2014
The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphates, is an attempt to chart the early history or the growth of Islam. A very interesting propostition and as relevant today as it ever has been, especially given the troubles in the middle east, this books should be of great help to anybody with an interest in this area of the world.

However it is not. While detailed, the style of writing is very dry and can be very confusing at times. Names of people and Caliph's come and go with very little to actually tell you who they are or where they come from. The success of the early Arab/Muslim armies agains all opposition is not really explained, to paraphrase, they came, they saw, they conquered and thats all we know from this work.

A decent attempt, but could have been so much more
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Five stars for content, two stars for readability. Densely written, colourless, but masses of factual detail which are not easy to find elsewhere. A book for specialists only, in my opinion.
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on 20 October 2010
yeah ok it was a little hard going in bits but the info in this book is great.
it was well worth the effort. I could now happily argue with muslims about M. and his mates, their world and their lives.
good stuff.
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on 25 September 2014
good. Well-preserved.
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