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Arabia and the Arabs: From the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam (Peoples of the Ancient World) Paperback – 23 Aug 2001

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; First Edition edition (23 Aug. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415195357
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415195355
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 483,768 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"In this highly original book, Hoyland gives us a rare glimpse into the society and culture of Arabia before the advent of Islam in the seventh century. Hoyland challenges the myth of pre-Islamic Arabia as culturally barren and demonstrates the social vitality of everyday life in the area. The narrative is enhanced by numerous maps, figures and plates. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries." - Library Journal

About the Author

Robert G. Hoyland is professor of Islamic history at the Oriental Institute at the University of Oxford.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Robert Hoyland provides a methodical description of the tribal groups that made up arabia (the arabian peninsular, Jordan and eastern Syria)covering their politics, religion, economy and social structure from c.3000BC to 600AD. Hoyland's problem is that he must work from a very limited historical record of these people and they never quite came to life for me, in spite of his use of contemporary and near contemporary sources. You also need a thorough knowledge of the more well known local civilisations of the period (which I don't have). Without the historical context, the book seems at times merely to be a list of kings. In short, very informative but not a stirring narrative.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x947a62f4) out of 5 stars 10 reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x947b9e70) out of 5 stars An Excellent First Source 6 Jan. 2010
By Angie Penrose - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Finding sources on pre-Islamic Arabia is incredibly difficult, and finding sources in English is doubly so. This is an excellent overview of the subject, well written and well organized. The author gives the broader picture, tying the various peoples of Arabia in to the larger world in each time period, showing ties of diplomacy, war and trade, as well as focusing on what the different groups were doing individually and among themselves.

The book is organized in a very standard and useful fashion, giving chapters on each region (internally organized by time period) before moving on to topic-focused chapters. This is a book which rewards a cover-to-cover reading, and is understandable to a novice on the subject; now that I've been through it once, I'll probably read it again at least once in its entirety, as well as using it as a look-up reference for individual bits of information.

The notes are interesting and worth reading, without this being a case of all the good stuff being in the footnotes.

The only complaint I have is that I'd have liked for each place mentioned more than in passing in the text to have been marked somewhere on one of the maps. More maps and some more detail would have been nice. This isn't an insurmountable problem, however, for anyone who has a good historical atlas, or access to the internet.

For someone who's writing a journal article or a dissertation, this is probably too elementary a source. For a person with some historical background who's familiar with the ancient world in general, but lacking foundation knowledge of ancient Arabia, this is an excellent first source and provides many jumping-off points for further research. This is a keeper for me, and I'm sure it'll get a lot of use.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x950fafe4) out of 5 stars Outstanding Insight into the History of Ancient Arabia 23 Jan. 2008
By A. Alkowaiter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am an amatuer archeologist, constantly on the lookout for practical, well researched books on the history of the Arabian Penninsula. What is difficult for any writer on Ancient Arabia, is the fact that there are very few texts available on this subject. However, the writer has delved into the society, mores, trade, cultural traditions, and other components of this unique land. All in all, I vote five stars for the effort and interesting writing style.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x950faee8) out of 5 stars Superb read well worth the work 18 Dec. 2011
By Bavaruspex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is not easy to find objective literature on Arabian history that doesn't force everything Islam right down your throat from beginning to end (no different with Jewish history and the Old Testament). Fortunately, "Arabia and the Arabs" is objective literature. Its emphasis is on pre-islamic history, and the level of scholarship is impressive. It particularly shows in the section on language and literature, plus its genuinely massive bibliography. However that also means that it isn't an easy, relaxing read. It requires that one follows the author as he first presents the evidence at hand, then how he reasons what picture one can assemble from it. More often than not this picture must remain incomplete until further evidence, be that through excavations, language analysis or other discoveries, comes to light and is understood in the proper context. Such reading takes concentration and some patience. Of particular interest to me was the last chapter on Arabhood and Arabisation. It did much to illuminate the mistaken but widely held impression that "the Arabs" some day just burst out of their peninsula and onto the scene of European history. After I was done with the book I definitely felt that the realistic understanding it conveyed was well worth the time and effort.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x94e31930) out of 5 stars Excellent addition to the much understudied world of pre-Islamic Arabia 31 Jan. 2012
By Abu Seyame - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Robert Hoyland's "Arabia and the Arabs" is a much welcomed addition to the limited corpus concerning Arabia before the advent of Islam. Hoyland's work is chronologically and geographically expansive, outlining the history of Arabia, a region which he defines as stretching from the Syrian desert down to the Arabian sea, from the Bronze age up until the early Islamic period. Nevertheless, the author does not bog the reader down with needless information, but rather he provides a smooth narrative of this region's diverse history, which he recounts by way of academic commentary coupled with an extensive selection of quotes from contemporary documentary historical sources. Hoyland explicitly notes that the purpose behind this methodology is "to let the witnesses speak for themselves rather than to deploy an omnipotent narrator, thus allowing the viewers the chance to form their own opinion" ( 11-12).

Hoyland organizes the text by region and theme. First, he discusses the three distinct Arabian regions (East Arabia, South Arabia, North and Central Arabia) and their people, providing a more general "political" history of the different tribes and societies based in these areas, before moving on to the themes (Economy, Society, Religion, Art and Architecture, Language and Literature, and Arabhood and Arabisation), in which he provides more in-depth information about the structure, culture, and sociological features of the various peoples and civilizations in Arabia as a whole during this time period. One of this book's most remarkable features is Hoyland's ability to synthesize a variety of different evidence --inscriptions, texts (history, poetry, geography), pottery, art, etc -- in an array of languages (South Arabian, Safaitic, Hismaic, Arabic, Greek, Latin, Nabataean, etc) into a cohesive and fluid historical narrative.

Given the wide scope of "Arabia and the Arabs", certain chapters of this book will surely be more accessible and interesting to an assortment of readers given their respective backgrounds. Personally, coming from the field of Islamic history, it was fascinating to learn of the distinct regions and civilizations that existed in Arabia up until the 4th-5th century AD. Furthermore, the connectedness of Arabia, particularly the South Arabian civilizations, to the Mediterranean, Persia, India and Asia Minor from the Bronze Age onwards (ie. the longue duree) was enlightening in regard to the fluidity of influence and the breaking down of historically constructed "borders" that tend to be created by academics who focus on specific civilizations and time periods. Finally, Hoyland's hypothesis about how the Byzantine-Sasanian patronage of the Arab chiefdoms provided the imperial culture and affluence necessary for the Arabs to articulate and promote their language and poetry is thought provoking and original.

What "Arabia and the Arabs" lacks in depth and critical scholarly elaboration, it certainly makes up for with its expansive and erudite overview of this much understudied region of the world. Plus, Hoyland has compiled a wonderful bibliography that provides references to books and articles regarding every theme and sub-theme in the book for readers who are interested in doing further reading/research on specific aspects of Arabia.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x947ba474) out of 5 stars An Excellent Read 1 May 2013
By Edmund - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As an international business consultant I wanted to learn more about the Arabian history. Hoyland's work provided a excellent scholastic view into how historical events have shaped the political, economic, and cultural demographics found today in the Middle East, Arabia, and North Africa.
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