The Great Caliphs

The Great Caliphs : The Golden Age of the 'Abbasid Empire

3.53 (95 ratings by Goodreads)
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The flowering of the 'Abbasid caliphate between 750 and 1258 CE is often considered the classical age of Islamic civilization. In the preceding 120 years the Arabs had conquered much of the known world of antiquity and established a vast empire stretching from Spain to China. But was this empire really so very different, as has sometimes been claimed, from what it superseded? The Great Caliphs creatively explores the immense achievements of the 'Abbasid age through the lens of Mediterranean history. When the Umayyad caliphs were replaced by the 'Abbasids in 750, and the Arab capital moved to Baghdad, Iraq quickly became the centre not only of an imperium but also of a culture built on the foundations of the great civilizations of antiquity: Greece, Rome, Byzantium and Persia. Debunking popular misconceptions about the Arab conquests, Amira Bennison shows that, far from seeing themselves as purging the 'occidental' culture of the ancient world with a 'pure' and 'oriental' Islamic doctrine, the 'Abbasids perceived themselves to be as much within the tradition of Mediterranean and Near Eastern empire as any of their predecessors.
Like other outsiders who inherited the Roman Empire, the Arabs had as much interest in preserving as in destroying, even while they were challenged by the paganism of the past. Indebted to that past while building creatively on its foundations, the 'Abbasids and their rulers inculcated and nurtured precisely the 'civilized' values which western civilization so often claims to represent.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 156 x 234 x 19.05mm | 348g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 26 integrated b/w, 4 maps
  • 1848859767
  • 9781848859760
  • 331,189

Table of contents

Note on transliteration
List of Maps
List of Figures

Chapter 1 Introduction
Chapter 2 A Stormy Sea: the politics of the `Abbasid caliphate
The making of an empire
The Umayyads: Islam's first caliphal dynasty
The rise of the `Abbasids
The early `Abbasid caliphate
The Samarran interlude
The Shi`i century
The Saljuq sultanate and the `Sunni revival'
The Crusades and the twilight of the caliphate
Chapter 3 From Baghdad to Cordoba: the cities of classical Islam
Arab urbanism at the dawn of Islam
The first Muslim towns
Umayyad urbanism
`Abbasid imperial cities and their imitators
Provincial cities in the `Abbasid age
Chapter 4 Princes and Beggars: life and society in the `Abbasid Age
Peasants and countryfolk
The people of the city
Women and children
The religious minorities
Beggars and tricksters
Chapter 5 The Life Blood of Empire: trade and traders in `Abbasid times
Routes and commodities
Merchants and pilgrims
Trade facilities
Chapter 6 Baghdad's `Golden Age': Islam's scientific renaissance
The foundations of Islamic learning
The flowering of knowledge under the `Abbasids
The `Abbasid translation movement
Translations, translators and scientists
Knowledge and science after the translation movement
Chapter 7 The `Abbasid Legacy
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Review quote

'An engaging synthesis of much recent scholarship on medieval Islamic society and culture which fills a significant gap in a literature dominated by histories of politics and religion.' - Times Literary Supplement; 'Offers a compelling yet nuanced understanding of the civilization of the 'Abbasid Empire. A wonderful book.' - Miri Rubin, Professor of Medieval and Early Modern History, Queen Mary, University of London; 'Bennison fashions a smooth, expository narrative, drawing back the curtain on medieval Islamic society by a mix of lively anecdotes, illuminating references to modern practices, striking comparisons with the more familiar medieval West, well-judged and pithy generalizations and gobbets of medieval texts that instantly bring long-dead people to life. There really is something here for everyone.' - Robert Hillenbrand writing in The Middle East in London
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About Amira K. Bennison

Amira K. Bennison is Senior Lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge. A regular panelist on Radio 4's 'In Our Time', she has contributed essays and articles to many books and journals, and is the author of 'Jihad and its Interpretations in Pre-Colonial Morocco' (2002).
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Rating details

95 ratings
3.53 out of 5 stars
5 11% (10)
4 45% (43)
3 34% (32)
2 8% (8)
1 2% (2)
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