In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire

In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire

Book rating: 02 Paperback

By (author) Tom Holland

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  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press
  • Format: Paperback | 526 pages
  • Dimensions: 132mm x 204mm x 28mm | 522g
  • Publication date: 2 May 2013
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0307473651
  • ISBN 13: 9780307473653
  • Edition statement: Reprint
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations, maps
  • Sales rank: 33,469

Product description

A thrillingly panoramic and incredibly timely account of the rise of Islam, from the acclaimed author of "Rubicon "and "Persian Fire." The evolution of the Arab empire is one of the supreme narratives of ancient history, a story dazzlingly rich in drama, character, and achievement. In this exciting and sweeping history--the third in his trilogy of books on the ancient world--Holland describes how the Arabs emerged to carve out a stupefyingly vast dominion in a matter of decades, overcoming seemingly insuperable odds to create an imperial civilization aspects of which endure to the present day. With profound bearing on the most consequential events of our time, Holland ties the exciting story of Islam's ascent to the crises and controversies of the present.

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Author information

Historian Tom Holland is the author of the nonfiction works of history "Rubicon," "Persian Fire," and "The Forge of Christendom." "Rubicon" was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the 2004 Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History, and "Persian Fire" won the Anglo-Hellenic League's 2006 Runciman Award. @holland_tom

Customer reviews

By Lindsay Hughes 05 Mar 2014 4

This is an excellent study of the rise of pan-Arabism and Islam. The scholarship is extraordinary as is the story-telling. Hollande does not step back from making bold statements. These, however, are based on undeniable facts inasmuch as archaeology permits those. There are some leaps of faith in the reasoning, to be sure, but these are probably justified given the facts as we know them, facts that derive from archaeology and still extant texts and parchments. Some will, undoubtedly, find the language verbose but this will depend on personal taste and background. Hollande has taken a difficult subject - one which is germane to today's world - and made it readily understandable to the lay-person. It is difficult, overall, to fault the author's conclusions. Overall, it is an excellent study of a often-misunderstood subject.

By Peter Katz 24 Aug 2013 1

this book should be great. The subject is fascinating and poorly understood but vitally important as it describes the formation of the Christian and Islamic religions and an early clash of civilisations. The author clearly knows the subject and has done a lot of homework.
Unfortunately the book is so poorly written it is almost unreadable. Long boring repetitive sentences with flowery meaningless words in a jumble of unstructured paragraphs make the book a waste of time. The editor must have been asleep and the publisher relying on the title and cover for this book to get out as it did.
Don't waste 20 hours of your life tying to get through the hyperbole, don't waste your money, don't buy In the Shadow of the Sword.

Review quote

Praise for "In the Shadow of the Sword: " "This is a book of extraordinary richness. I found myself amused, diverted and enchanted by turn. For Tom Holland has an enviable gift for summoning up the colour, the individuals and animation of the past, without sacrificing factual integrity. He writes with a contagious conviction that history is not only a fascinating tale in itself but is a well-honed instrument with which we can understand our neighbours and our own times, maybe even ourselves. He is also a divertingly inventive writer with a wicked wit - there's something of both Gibbon and Tom Wolfe in his writing... [and] he possesses a falcon eye for detail.... [A] spell-bindingly brilliant multiple portrait of the triumph of monotheism in the ancient world."--Barnaby Rogerson, the "Independent" (London) "This dramatic investigation of the origins of Islam is both a thrilling narrative history and a compelling piece of detective work.... A compelling detective story of the highest order, "In the Shadow of the Sword" is also a dazzlingly colourful journey into the world of late antiquity. We encounter brain-eating demons; a caliph with such oral-hygiene problems that he could kill a fly with one breath; and that old favourite, St Simeon Stylites, rotting away on his pillar but still managing to miraculously cure a man with unfeasibly large testicles, "like a pair of clay jars." Every bit as thrilling a narrative history as Holland's previous works, "In the Shadow of the Sword" is also a profoundly important book. It makes public and popular what scholarship has been discovering for several decades now: and those discoveries suggest a wholesale revision of where Islam came from and what it is."--Christopher Hart, "Sunday Times" (London) "[M]agnificent...and brave....The historian and author of "Rubicon" and "Persian Fire" has now, after five years' work, come up with "In the Shadow of the Sword." His story is so compellingly tol