Most Helpful First | Newest First
64 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Informative,
This review is from: Arab Historians of the Crusades (Paperback)
I read this book for a class on the Crusades. This is an extremely informative book that provides a different viewpoint on the European invasions of Palestine and Egypt from 1098-1303. Gabrieli includes excerpts from several Islamic historians who wrote copiously on this topic, and the information they provide gives the reader a different view of the fight for the Holy Land.
This book reads quite fast, as the excerpts for the most part are very short. The best section of the book has to be the detailed information on Saladin, the Arab general and sultan who dealt the Christians a punishing blow at Hittin in 1187, and who eventually retook Jerusalem. Lots of stories provide an interesting character study of this Islamic hero. We read about his military heroism, his religious piety, his sense of justice and honor, and his relationship with the Christians. There is the interesting story of how Saladin helped a Christian woman recover her child. The child was seized and was almost sold into slavery until Saladin intervened on her behalf and returned the child to its mother. The other sections of the book deal with the initial campaigns of the Christians during the First Crusade, such as the taking of Antioch and the legend of the Holy Lance, a ridiculous story that the Arab historians rightly perceive as total bunk. The last part of the book deals with the Egyptian campaigns of Louis IX and the eventual collapse of the Christian occupation in Palestine.
Most of these writings are pretty interesting, but there are a few drawbacks. Many of these accounts are propaganda meant to paint the Muslims in the best possible light. Also, this would be a useless review unless I mentioned the amazingly horrible writings of Imad ad-Din, who served as a close official to Saladin. His prose is so turgid and congealed that it is very taxing to get through. He spends a whole page giving EXTREMELY gory descriptions of the dead Christians at Hittin. There are only so many descriptions of bashed in heads and ripped livers a person can take! His prose is so difficult that it is hard to glean the actual history out of his writing. A final downfall of the book, which is more my fault then anything else, is the complicated names of the Arabs. These guys have more names then you can shake a stick at. It takes a leviathan effort to wade through them.
Overall, this is a very worthy book for someone interested in this time period. Any serious historian should always look at as many sides of an event as possible, and this book will give many insights. Just be prepared for Imad's interesting accounts!
22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great achievment,
Gabrieli must be congratulated on condensing the mass of Islamic sorce material for the covered period, into one condense book that fairly reflects the Islamic view on events all well known to the armchair historian from the Christian chronicles.
Not only is it a great work of selection, editing and translation, but it is an enthralling read throughout. Always intersting, sometimes shocking and humourous.
An essential accompliment to anyone's book collection who is intersted in crusader history.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Companion Material,
As other reviewers have noted, this book is an engrossing, highly informative text, that is (generally) quite an easy read. It can be gory and propagandistic at times, as some have noted. Overall, it's a very good digest of Muslim narratives of several key events.
The main drawback is that I would not consider this a stand-alone book, particularly on a lot of the convoluted political arrangements - I'd suggest Wasserman's "Templars & the Assassins: The Militia of Heaven" for that - and I really don't think one can get the full understanding of the Muslim mentality in fighting the Crusaders from it. For that I'd suggest al-Sulami's "Way of Sufi Chivalry" (for those on a budget) or preferably Sabzawari's "Royal Book of Spiritual Chivalry" (for those who aren't) to get into the mindset of the Muslim warriors. For while "Arab Historians" includes a lot personal commentary from the authors, these last two books were written as guides for the emirs and warriors, and once reading them one gets the feeling that "Arab Historians" was written by some military public relations officer.
Still a highly recommended, enjoyable read, though.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful source material,
Once you've read the popular histories of the Crusades, and your appetite for the original source materials has been whetted by the excerpts in Payne, Runciman, etc., you will want this book. It's THE source reader for the Arab perspectives, better in many ways than The Crusades Through Arab Eyes (Maalouf). You get the flavor of the culture as well as their particular slant on the events and personalities. And the snarky footnotes can be delicious!
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent,
A very good source, especially for those who have read about the Crusades and understand the context of the writings. This book is not an overview of the crusades or of a single crusade; it is selections from the writings of Arabic historians placed in a chronological order. Easy to read, detailed and engrossing; both useful and enjoyable.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting accounts.,
This book as a number of other reviewers have pointed out is a collection of Muslim (The author presents them as Arabs though thats another matter) accounts of the Crusades. While there have been quite a number of other similar books written in recent yeas (Maalouf "The crusades through Arab eyes") For example which is written largely based upon ibn Athir's "Complete history" There is little (Especially at an affordable price) Translated into English from the original historians themselves.
The book itself is divided into chapters or rather chunks of translation from a number of contemporary Muslim historians who wrote about significant events of the crusades. The conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders, the rise of Saladin, the Seljuks of Anatolia, the battles in Palestine, the re-capture of Jerusalem and the rise of the Mamluks which resulted in the final expulsion of the Crusaders from the holy land. The translator uses not only ibn Athir but also ibn Munqidh (Also translated by Philip Hitti amongst others)
One problem with this method of translation is that in parts it can become quite confusing. For example, the translator will translate accounts of the conquest of Jerusalem by one author, move onto another event then translate something by another author returning back to the conquest of Jerusalem. In another words, the book appears quite disjointed and doesn't really have much of a flow to it. You will often find yourself reading the same event written by a different historian which isn't really a problem if you give all the accounts in the same place but the translator tends to just translate one large chunk of a book at a time without any real effort to make it chronological. A second problem is there is no real time scale for events so a reader not especially familiar with the history of the crusades may very quickly find themselves lost especially in events regarding the attempted conquest of Egypt or the Mamluk conquest of the remaining crusader castles of Palestine.
Contrary to what one reviewer has put this book makes no mention of the Balkans or Span and quite why she has put that is frankly beyond me so if you are buying this book expecting the history of the Balkans and Andalusia expect to be disappointed. I would recommend Harvey "Muslim Spain and Portugal" or the books of Halik Inalcik if you are interested in that part of history.
All in all an interesting book. If you have watched the film Kingdom of Heaven you may be intrigued to read this as the account that Saladin initially refused to negotiate a surrender and was only convinced when Balian informed him that a population who were left no choice would fight with all the more determination (As the film depicts) Was actually based upon Arab sources.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent as a reference book and for highly informed laymen,
In his introduction, Professor Gabrieli expresses the idea that his translation of Arabic texts is geared toward both the historian and the interested layman. Historians and scholars should indeed find this book invaluable, if it in any way relates to their fields of study. On the other hand, if you, like me, fall into the 'interested layman' category, then I submit that your interest will need to run quite high to get maximum value from these passages. Without a good grasp of the cultures, the history, the major personalities and even the geography of the region, I suspect that you may find the going somewhat tedious, as I did, as well as dry and repetitive.
It may sound as though I'm knocking the book for failing at what it was never meant to do - that isn't my aim. By transcribing translations of original and contemporary sources, Professor Gabrieli meant to "offer...a selection of the opposition's views to set beside the picture presented by European writers'. Unfortunately, the project is fundamentally episodic - there is no comprehensive Arabic 'history of the Crusades' - historians from that region incorporated their writings of the conflicts with the Europeans (Franks) with that of the general history and court matters of their day. Thus, the works of several authors are patched together in order to establish a continuous story of the Crusades. This leads to unavoidable repetitions and a mixture of styles that ranges from the histrionic (`Imâd ad-Din) to the hagiographic (Bahâ' ad-Din) to the competent and readable (`Izz ad-Din Ibn al-Athîr), along with several others in between.
One quick glance at the names I've referenced above may signal another issue readers, like me, may have who are not familiar with Arabic names. Over the two centuries covered here, there are a host of personalities - some predominant, like Saladin, or Nur ad-Din, but most mentioned only a few times, and, at least to my eyes, with overwhelmingly similar names. This made it difficult to keep the narrative thread straight in my mind - other than the bulk of the middle, which primarily dealt with Saladin. The final chapters, which chronicled the Ayyubid dynasty in Egypt, and the end of the crusaders in Muslim lands, was also fairly easy to follow as the events coalesced around each of the succeeding sultans.
In the end, while there were many sections of the book were quite interesting, my knowledge of the Crusades is simply too cursory and general to get the full effect that I think is possible from this source material. This reader, at least, would have benefited from a general history of the crusades first, and then used Professor Gabrieli's work as a supplement, instead of as a primary account. While there are explanatory notes - at each chapter head and in footnotes - and a brief summary of the Crusades in the introduction, much of it is referential in nature, as though the reader is already quite familiar with the events. Those who are will most likely find that this volume will neatly complement their understanding of this time in history.
27 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why were the Crusaders there - any way?,
The history of the Crusaders cannot be complete without the contribution of the inhabitants of that part of the world.
There are only a few books, probably no more than two or three, that attempt to relate the stories of the invaded against probably hundreds written from the view point of the invaders.
The earnest reports of the Arab historians of the time contained in the book must be a reflection of the pain and outrage that must prevailed throughout the 100-year invasion of Syria's littoral region. Sensitive readers would find it easy to understand!
Serious teachers of history will find this book authentic, clear and revealing. It represents a very interesting example in history writing by Arab historians of those days. For a narrative of some of the historic text included in this book, the invaluable work of A. Maalouf and J. Rothschild, "The Crusaders Through Arab Eyes" is a rich companion.
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting history,
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This book is full of first hand accounts by muslim chroniclers during the various crusades. Some of the opinions are biased and may be hateful exaggerations of the truth but I found it a fascinating read. It seemed to me the muslims wrote from a more authentic voice than that of many crusader points of view from the various books I have read. Well worth your time. Also read The Alexiad by Anna Comnena, The Crusades through arab eyes is also good. If anyone has any other historical reads worth reading please post. I really enjoy reading first hand accounts.
11 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book,
A good book. It has many parallels with accounts of the original Muslim invasions and subsequent 700 year occupation of most of the Iberian (Spain/Portugal) Penninsula. Due to this initial Muslim invasion and occupation of Christian Europe, the Christian Crusades were launched into Spain and the Holy Land. Same story in the Balkans and Anatolia with the Seljuk and Ottoman Turk invasions of those Christian lands. First hand accounts of events always make for good reading. A good book, unfortunately I lost it.
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Arab Historians of the Crusades (Unknown Binding - January 1, 1989)
Used & New from: $6.50