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The Armies of the Caliphs: Military and Society in the Early Islamic State (Warfare and History)

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ISBN-13: 978-0415250924
ISBN-10: 0415250927
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Editorial Reviews

Review

'This book should long be the standard work on the subject for students, specialists and general readers.' - Gerald Hawting, Times Literary Supplement

'... a lucid exploration of the role of the military in early Islamic society... This is a very important book based on a careful and original reading of the sources. It constitutes a major addition to our understanding of early Islamic society.' - John France, History, July 2003

About the Author

Hugh Kennedy is Professor of Middle Eastern History at the University of St. Andrews. His major publications include The Early Abbasid Caliphate,The Prophet and the Age of the Caliphs, and Muslim Spain and Portugal

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Product Details

  • Series: Warfare and History
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (September 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415250927
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415250924
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,734,985 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By TF on March 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
Few people realize that the vast extent of Islamization in the Middle East and North Africa today is a direct consequence of the conquest of these regions by Arab armies during the seventh and eighth centuries AD. The success of these conquests, struggles, and the establishment of Arab and Muslim control strongly depended on military organization and success. As a result, it is rather surprising that there has been relatively little study of the military aspects of the conquests and the development of the armies during the first three centuries of the Caliphate-a period crucial to the formation and spread of Islam. Professor Hugh Kennedy's The Armies of the Caliphs aims to fill this void claiming to be the first major study of the relationship between army and society in the early Islamic period, and concordantly, the role of military in politics.

Armies of the Caliphs (although quite dense) does present a comprehensive and balanced discussion of items such as weaponry, tactics, lines of command, methods of payment, and the changing social and ethnic composition of Muslim armies throughout the first three centuries of the Caliphate. The book is based heavily on narrative sources by historians of the ninth and tenth centuries such as al-Baladhuri and especially, al-Tabari. Since these works focus greatly on individuals and groups of individuals rather than institutions, they are extremely prosopographical. Directly, the sources refer only sporadically to tactics and methods of paying soldiers. Kennedy however uses this prosopography to his advantage. For example, using al-Tabari as a source, Kennedy cites an anecdote in which the Umayyads under al-Hajjaj defeated the Kharijis when they tried to attack Kufa.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JPS TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Interestingly, this book is the first and - to my knowledge - the only comprehensive major study on the armies of the Caliphs and their relationship with society. Contrary to what is suggested by another reviewer on Amazon.com, this is not simply a "claim". It is also more than simply an "excellent summary" and it is not really about "early Islamic History" either. Rather, in studying the relationship between army and society during a period of over three centuries - from about 600, just before the Conquest began, to 945, and the take-over of military power by the Buyids - it aims to discuss and explain the "whys" and the "hows": how the armies of the Caliphs evolved, the reasons underpinning these changes, and their medium and long term impact and consequences on the Caliphate and on its society. In this, it is remarkably successful.

Hugh Kennedy does, of course, discuss the Muslim sources and explains what makes them so original, when compared to Western sources covering the same period, difficult to deal with but also extraordinarily rich. The two main narrative sources that he uses - Al-Baladhuri writing in the ninth century and Al-Tabari writing in the tenth century - included in their narratives and therefore helped to preserve a large amount of material from previous authors which would be otherwise lost to us. In a way, these two scholars were perhaps at least as much compilers as they were "historians" telling us their own version of what had happened. This is what makes them so valuable but also so difficult to work with. Their value is that they, and the previous sources that they transmit, are very heavily "prosopographical": their focus is on specific people and groups, much more than being on institutions, events or even caliphs and chronology.
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By They did 9/11 on August 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
some illustrations would have helped.
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