In 1187 Saladin’s armies besieged the holy city of Jerusalem. He had previously annihilated Jerusalem’s army at the battle of Hattin, and behind the city’s high walls a last-ditch defence was being led by an unlikely trio – including Sibylla, Queen of Jerusalem. They could not resist Saladin, but, if they were lucky, they could negotiate terms that would save the lives of the city’s inhabitants.
Queen Sibylla was the last of a line of formidable female rulers in the Crusader States of Outremer. Yet for all the many books written about the Crusades, one aspect is conspicuously absent: the stories of women. Queens and princesses tend to be presented as passive transmitters of land and royal blood. In reality, women ruled, conducted diplomatic negotiations, made military decisions, forged alliances, rebelled, and undertook architectural projects. Sibylla’s grandmother Queen Melisende was the first queen to seize real political agency in Jerusalem and rule in her own right. She outmanoeuvred both her husband and son to seize real power in her kingdom, and was a force to be reckoned with in the politics of the medieval Middle East. The lives of her Armenian mother, her three sisters, and their daughters and granddaughters were no less intriguing.
The lives of this trailblazing dynasty of royal women, and the crusading Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine, are the focus of Katherine Pangonis’s debut book. In QUEENS OF JERUSALEM she explores the role women played in the governing of the Middle East during periods of intense instability, and how they persevered to rule and seize greater power for themselves when the opportunity presented itself.
‘Hugely inspiring . . . A unique tribute to the power of books and the unquenchable human spirit’ MICHAEL PALIN
‘An inspiring read – humanity at its best’ DAVID NOTT, author of War Doctor
Daraya lies on the fringe of Damascus, just south west of the Syrian Capital. Besieged by government forces since 2011, its people were deprived of food, bombarded by bombs and missiles, and shot at by snipers. But while the streets above echoed with rifle fire, deep beneath lay a secret library – a haven of peace with books lining almost every wall. Many people had risked their lives to save these precious titles from the devastation of war. Because to them, the secret library was a symbol of hope – of their belief that books would triumph over bombs and help them rebuild their fractured society. This is the true story of an extraordinary place and the people who made it happen.
Istanbul has always been a place where stories and histories collide and crackle, where the idea is as potent as the historical fact. From the Qu’ran to Shakespeare, this city with three names – Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul – resonates as an idea and a place, and overspills its boundaries – real and imagined. Standing as the gateway between the East and West, it has served as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires. For much of its history it was known simply as The City, but, as Bettany Hughes reveals, Istanbul is not just a city, but a story.
In this epic new biography, Hughes takes us on a dazzling historical journey through the many incarnations of one of the world’s greatest cities. As the longest-lived political entity in Europe, over the last 6,000 years Istanbul has absorbed a mosaic of micro-cities and cultures all gathering around the core. At the latest count archaeologists have measured forty-two human habitation layers. Phoenicians, Genoese, Venetians, Jews, Vikings, Azeris all called a patch of this earth their home. Based on meticulous research and new archaeological evidence, this captivating portrait of the momentous life of Istanbul is visceral, immediate and scholarly narrative history at its finest.
‘Robert Twigger is not so much a travel writer as a thrill-seeking philosopher’ Esquire
The Himalayas beckon and we go … Some to make real journeys and others to make imaginary ones. These mountains, home to Buddhists, Bonpos, Jains, Muslims, Hindus, shamans and animists, to name only a few, are a place of pilgrimage and dreams, revelation and war, massacre and invasion, but also peace and unutterable calm.
In an exploration of the region’s seismic history, Robert Twigger unravels some of these real and invented journeys and the unexpected links between them. Following a meandering path across the Himalayas to its physical end in Nagaland on the Indian-Burmese border, Twigger encounters incredible stories from a unique cast of mountaineers and mystics, pundits and prophets. The result is a sweeping, enthralling and surprising journey through the history of the world’s greatest mountain range.
A timely and definitive narrative history of Israel in the context of the modern Jewish experience and the Middle East. Ideal for anyone seeking to understand the roots of the current conflict in Gaza.
Written by one of Israel’s most notable scholars, this volume provides a breathtaking history of Israel from the origins of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century to the present day.
Anita Shapira’s gripping narrative explores the emergence of Zionism in Europe against the backdrop of relations among Jews, Arabs and Turks, and the earliest pioneer settlements in Palestine under Ottoman rule. Weaving together political, social and cultural developments in Palestine under the British mandate, Shapira creates a tapestry through which to understand the challenges of Israeli nation-building, including mass immigration, shifting cultural norms, the politics of war and world diplomacy, and the creation of democratic institutions and a civil society. References to contemporary diaries, memoirs and literature bring a human dimension to the story of Israel, from its declaration of independence in 1948 through successive decades of waging war, negotiating peace, and building a modern state with a vibrant society and culture.
Based on archival sources and the most up-to-date scholarly research, this authoritative history is a must-read for anyone with a passionate interest in Israel and the Middle East. ISRAEL: A HISTORY will be the gold standard in the field for years to come.
A collection of the most important essays on past and current history by the Western world’s foremost Islamic scholar
Bernard Lewis has charted the great centuries of Islamic power and civilisation but also, in his recent books WHAT WENT WRONG? and THE CRISIS OF ISLAM, Islam’s calamitous and bitter decline. This book collects together his most interesting and significant essays, papers, reviews and lectures.
They range from historical subjects such as religion and politics in Islam and Judaism, the culture and people of Iran, the great mosques of Istanbul, Middle Eastern food and feasts, the Mughals and the Ottomans, the rise and fall of British power in the Middle East and North Africa, Islam and racism – to current history such as the significance of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Includes discussion of the problems of Western historians dealing with the Islamic world.
‘The story of the first all-out struggle in Asia between Communism and the West, vividly told in an exciting and engrossing book’ Sunday Express
Only three short years after the end of the Japanese occupation, war came again to Malaya. The Chinese-backed guerrillas called it the War of the Running Dogs – their contemptuous term for those in Malaya who remained loyal to the British. The British Government referred to this bloody and costly struggle as the ‘Malayan Emergency’. Yet it was a war that lasted twelve years and cost thousands of lives. By the time it was over Malaya had obtained its independence – but on British, not on Chinese or Communist terms.
Here is the war as it was. Here are the planters and their wives on their remote rubber estates, the policemen, the generals and the soldiers, the Malays, Chinese and Indians of a polyglot country, all fighting an astute, ruthless, and well organized enemy.
The epic story of Jerusalem told through the lives of the men and women who created, ruled and inhabited it.
Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today’s clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence.
How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the ‘centre of the world’ and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a gripping narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem’s biography is told through the wars, love affairs and revelations of the men and women – kings, empresses, prophets, poets, saints, conquerors and whores – who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem.
Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime’s study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique chronicle of the city that many believe will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, and the only city that exists twice – in heaven and on earth.
A popular history of the Arab invasions that carved out an empire from Spain to China
Today’s Arab world was created at breathtaking speed. Whereas the Roman Empire took over 200 years to reach its fullest extent, the Arab armies overran the whole Middle East, North Africa and Spain within a generation. They annihilated the thousand-year-old Persian Empire and reduced the Byzantine Empire to little more than a city-state based around Constantinople. Within a hundred years of the Prophet’s death, Muslim armies destroyed the Visigoth kingdom of Spain, and crossed the Pyrenees to occupy southern France.
This is the first popular English language account of this astonishing remaking of the political and religious map of the world. Hugh Kennedy’s sweeping narrative reveals how the Arab armies conquered almost everything in their path. One of the few academic historians with a genuine talent for story telling, he offers a compelling mix of larger-than-life characters, battles, treachery and the clash of civilizations.
Turkey, the First World War and the making of the Middle East.
The Great War in the Middle East began with the invasion of the Garden of Eden, and ended with a momentous victory on the site of the biblical Armageddon. Almost incredibly, the whole story of this epic war has never been told in a single volume until now. In this important new history Roger Ford describes a conflict in its entirety: the war in Mesopotamia, which would end with the creation of the countries of Iran and Iraq; the desperate struggle in the Caucasus, where the Turks had long-standing territorial ambitions; the doomed attacks on the Gallipoli Peninsula that would lead to ignominous defeat; and the final act in Palestine, where the Ottoman Empire finally crumbled. He ends with a detailed description of the messy aftermath of the war, and the new conflicts in a reshaped Middle East that would play such a huge part in shaping world affairs for many generations to come.
An epic true story of treachery, revenge and courage
The Indian Mutiny is a real page-turner, an epic story with surprising modern parallels. Fomer army officer-turned-TV scriptwriter, Julian Spilsbury is the ideal author to take us back to the desperate summer of 1857 when thousands of Indian soldiers mutinied. They murdered their officers, hunted down the women and children and burned and slaughtered their way to Delhi. The tiny British garrison at Lucknow held out against all odds; the one at Cawnpore surrendered only to be betrayed and massacred.
Modern Indian accounts call this ‘the first war of liberation’, but as Julian Spilsbury reveals, 80 per cent of the so-called ‘British’ forces were from the sub-continent. Sikhs, Gurkhas and Afghans fought alongside small numbers of British soldiers. Together, they faced terrible odds and won. In the process they created a new army that would play a vital role in the Allied forces in both World Wars.
Julian Spilsbury weaves the story together from some of the most vivid eyewitness accounts ever written. From the women and children hiding from blood-crazed mobs, to the epic battles that decided the campaign, to the grisly revenge exacted by the British forces, this is a gripping recreation of the greatest crisis of Empire.
A masterly narrative survey of three centuries, from Alexander’s conquest and empire to the triumph of Rome.
The book begins with the personality and achievements of Alexander the Great, and continues with the military and political violence of the successor-kingdoms that fought over his inheritance.
This era saw many important developments: a shift from the oral to the written; a move from the public to the private and a new individualist ethos; a huge growth in slavery, and therefore a glut of slave-labour which destroyed the incentive to innovate; a growing gap between rich and poor; a growing taste for luxury.