h o l y w a r r i o r s t homas a s b r i d g e
Onward Muslim Soldiers In the Shadow of the Sword: The Battle for Global Empire and the End of the Ancient World
By Tom Holland (Little, Brown 526pp £25)
Almost 1,400 years ago, the established world order was overturned by the emergence of a dynamic new power in the Near East. From the mid-630s, fearsome bands of Arab tribesmen began to pour out of their homelands in the Arabian Peninsula. Within a few decades these highly mobile, mounted warriors achieved startling successes – overrunning Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Egypt with mercurial speed – and, by the middle of the next century, their descendants could claim dominion over a vast swathe of territory, stretching from the Indus River and the borders of China in the east, across north Africa to Spain and southern France in the west.
long been sought. How was it that the Arabs – previously a known, but relatively insignificant, force on the world stage – suddenly became invincible conquerors? What lent them the unity of purpose and martial vigour to topple the ancient might of Rome and Persia, the region’s great imperial superpowers? One answer, frequently offered, has been Islam. According to Muslim tradition, the faith was born around AD 610 when Muhammad, an illiterate, forty-year-old Arab native of Mecca in modern Saudi Arabia, began to experience a series of ‘revelations’ from Allah, relayed by the Archangel Gabriel. These revelations, regarded as the sacred and immutable words of God, were later set down in written form – the Qur’an.
An explanation for this explosive, seemingly unheralded phenomenon has
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Tradition also holds that Muhammad set out to convert the polytheistic Arabs of Mecca and the surrounding Hijaz region on the Arabian Peninsula’s western coast to the monotheistic faith of Islam, and that this proved to be no easy task. In 622 the Prophet was forced to flee to the nearby city of Medina, a journey that served as the starting point of Islamic Chronology. He then waged a bloody and prolonged war of religion against Mecca, finally conquering the city two years before his death in 632. During Muhammad’s lifetime, and in the few years immediately following his death, the warring tribes of the Arabian Peninsula became united under the banner of Islam. Over the next few decades, under the guidance of the Prophet’s successors – a series of able and ambitious caliphs – these Muslim Arabs proved to be an almost unstoppable force. Their incredible martial dynamism was married to a seemingly insatiable appetite for conquest – a hunger sustained by the Qur’an’s explicit demand for the Muslim faith and the rule of Islamic law to be
Strindberg A Life Sue Prideaux Novelist, satirist, poet, photographer, painter, alchemist, and hellraiser – August Strindberg is principally known for leading playwriting out of the polite drawing room into the snakepit of psychological warfare. This mesmerising biography, supported by extensive new research, uncovers the full story of his chaotic life and his revolutionary writings. 20 colour + 50 b/w illus. £25.00
Interviews with Artists 1966–2012 Michael Peppiatt An informal, behind-the-scenes account of art and artists over the past half-century, consisting of fortyfive interviews with eminent and lesser-known artists by the renowned curator and writer Michael Peppiatt. These entertaining and informative interviews combine to give a unique perspective on art from the Second World War to the present day. 50 b/w illus. £20.00
Nights Out Life in Cosmopolitan London Judith R. Walkowitz In this lively book Judith Walkowitz shows how London’s sophisticated and subversive Soho district became a showcase for a new twentieth-century cosmopolitan identity. ‘A scrupulous and intelligent survey of a mythologised area where those qualities are rarely found. A real contribution to the history of place.’ – Iain Sinclair 9 colour, 29 b/w illus. + 9 maps £25.00
Opium Reality’s Dark Dream Thomas Dormandy This extraordinary book explores the entire history of the world’s most fascinating drug, revealing opium’s power to relieve suffering, inspire great art and promote medical advances … but also to destroy individuals, families and even nations. ‘considerably surpasses, and should replace, all previous general histories.’ – Mike Jay, author of High Society 25 b/w illus. £25.00
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