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The Cambridge Illustrated History of the Islamic World (Cambridge Illustrated Histories)

3.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0521435109
ISBN-10: 0521435102
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Editorial Reviews


"It is a challenging task to describe the contributions of one billion Muslims who inhabit the Middle East and much of Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia. However, the editor and the contributors of The Islamic World managed to put it all in perspective with accurate information, selective emphasis, and well-chosen photographs distributed fairly and with good taste throughout the book. The subject progession, the easy style of writing, and the black-and-white and color illustrations make the book easy to read, particularly for college students and the general reader." Digest of Middle East Studies

"This book helps to dispel myth and hearsay with solid information about one of the world's most maligned religions. Accessible, interesting, and thorough, this volume serves students who want to be more informed about a religion that is so often in the news." Rebecca Woodcock, University of Exeter

"This richly illustrated volume is one of the first of this growing number of works to make the world of Islam accessible to a wide range of readers while keeping to high standards of scholarship. Written to make the world of Islam readily accessible to the student and general reader, this volume fulfills its aims and makes a generous contribution to the field." International Journal of Middle East Studies

Book Description

With the help of sumptuous illustration, insight, and expertise, Francis Robinson and his team reveal the complex, rich, and sometimes contrary nature of Muslim culture. As well as taking on the issues uppermost in everyone's minds, such as the role of religious and political fundamentalism, they look at commerce, education, art, and the effects of immigration, exodus, and conquest. Emphasis is placed on the interaction between Islam and the West, deliberately to address an impression in the West of Islam as a monolithic culture.

Product Details

  • Series: Cambridge Illustrated Histories
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (June 13, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521435102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521435109
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 1.3 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #934,541 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In an age of prejudice towards the Islamic faith, it is nice to see a more accurate and even-handed book covering the Muslim world. This book gives an excellent introduction, going into depth on how the west has viwed the Islamic world, and vice-versca. Then it goes onto the first chapter, where it discusses pre-Islamic Arabia, the life of Mohammad, the Rashidun, the schism between Sunni and Shi'a, and the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties. This chapter is especially interesting in laying the framework for the foundations of the Islamic world, as well as the spread of Islam and Arabic culture, and later conversion of non-Arab peoples (most notably the Persians). In the next chapter, the Islamic world from 1000 to 1500 AD is covered, when Islam had spread across the Middle East, west to Spain and west Africa and east towards India and Central Asia. This chapter covers many interesting subjects, such as the Fatimid dynasty, the Crusades, the Mongols, Byzantium and the Turks, and Islamic states in East Asia and Africa. The third chapter covers the period from 1500 to 1800 AD, a period of both great achievements and decline. The Persian, Mongol and Turkish powers are mentioned (such as the Safavids, Mughals and Ottomans), alongside mention of Islam in Africa and elsehwere in Asia (mainly China and Southeast Asia).
The subsequent chapter focuses on the 1800s to the present day, and a growing western presence in Islamic lands. This chapter shows how European powers carved up Islamic lands (the French in Syria and north/west Africa, the Brits in Iraq, Palestine, Egypt and South Asia, the Italians in north Africa, Russians in central Asia, etc), and how Islamicist reformer movements arose because of this.
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Format: Paperback
This book is published by the Cambridge University Press and is this promoted, implicitly at least given it title, as an authoritative reference work. It may have great merits as a work of political literature, but it is disappointing as a reference work of history, and it is a surprise to this reader that the Cambridge University Press has apparently lowered its editorial and professional standards so much. There are other works in the Cambridge Illustrated History series that easily meet the normal standards of such a reference work, for example the volume on China.
Two examples of the limitations of this book give a representative picture of its shortcomings. First, in the Introduction, the editor uses the term "heresy" to describe how "western eyes" view the attack of some muslims on the achievements of the Enlightenment. Much of the book seems to be a partisan argument defending one particular, and extreme, muslim doctrine against a particular, and also extreme, non-muslim viewpoint. Leaving aside the question of whether this approach suits a work that is positioned as an authoritative reference book, the choice of the term "heresy" here is unfortunate, and one feels prompted to wonder whether the term was picked deliberately to obscure the main point of the enlightenment, which was to move from revealed religion to rational or scientific exploration of questions where possible. This kind of confusion will happen in the choice of words occasionally in even the best writing, but it is pervasive in this book.
The second example is found a few pages later, in relation to women. The text states that the freedom enjoyed by women in the West has on the whole produced shock among muslim men, and that this freedom "led to moral degeneration.
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Format: Paperback
Any account of the history of the Islamic world written by a Westerner in modern times is bound to elicit contention. It's a vast subject, and no single book can succeed in representing it comprehensively; so, an abridged history, with the peculiar slants of authorship that inhere in any such attempt. Nevertheless, a good introduction to the subject for the general reader, who likely is rather naïve about Islam and its history in various cultures and times.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is effective as a basic introduction to the Islamic world with a wide range of visuals. It is informative, but not super complicated so a good starting point but not deep analysis. If you are new to Islamic studies it is absolutely worth your time.
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