Islam

Abd al-Qadir Fights Back

January 20, 2015

  If the French hadn’t invaded Algeria in 1830, Algerian emir Abd al-Qadir would probably have been content to follow his grandfather and father as the spiritual leader of the Qadiriyah Sufi order. In the fall of 1832, when the French began to expand their control into the Algerian interior, the Arab tribes of Oran […]

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The Incident of the Flyswatter

January 13, 2015

Yesterday I received an e-mail from a friend and regular reader of History in the Margins suggesting I write a post about the long, complex, and often difficult relationship between France and its Muslim citizens, hoping it would give her/you a context for the Charlie Hebdo killings and their aftermath. I will admit that I […]

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Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms

November 7, 2014

In recent weeks, Ezidis, Druze, Mandaeans and other Middle Eastern religious minorities have appeared in the world’s headlines. For the most part, these groups, unfamiliar to most Westerners, have been no more than names attached to tragedies. Gerard Russell’s Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East appears just in […]

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Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors

September 27, 2014

If you’ve spent much time here in the Margins, you know that I’m fascinated by historical boundaries: the times and places where two cultures meet (peacefully or, more often, not) and change each other. One of my favorite examples of a historical boundary is Islamic Spain, where Dar al Islam and Christendom met in exciting […]

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Re-Run: If You Only Read One Book On Islamic History…

February 25, 2014

Last year I discovered the best general book on Islamic history I’ve ever read:  Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes by Tanim Ansary.  I underlined as I read.  I annotated.  I put little Post-It tabs at critical points, the durable ones so I could go back to key arguments in the […]

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Re-Run: Muslim Spain–The Soundtrack

February 19, 2014

The perversity of the universe being what it is, the final stages of renovating our new-old house and finishing my book proposal have collided.  Instead of driving myself mad trying to write blog posts or letting History in the Margins go blank for a few weeks, I decided to run some of my favorite posts […]

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From The Ruins of Empire–Revisited

August 27, 2013

If you’ve been following along for a while, you’ve probably figured out that I like books that look at familiar history from another point of view. (For example, here, and here, and here.)  Pankaj Mishra’s From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who Remade Asia,  is an excellent example.* Misra begins with the statement that […]

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Review: The Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42

May 9, 2013

I’ve written  on this blog before about the first British invasion of Afghanistan, and the disasters that followed.  In fact, I’ve written about it more than once.  It’s a story that never fails to fascinate me, but when I received William Dalyrmple’s The Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 to review I […]

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Book-hoarding, 10th Century Style

April 25, 2013

Anyone who’s spent a significant amount of time with me in recent months, whether in real life or in some virtual space, has probably heard me bemoan the state of my office bookshelves.  As the photo above attests, they overflow. Loaded two deep and stacked rather than shelved, there is still not enough room. Worse, […]

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The Art of the Book

April 21, 2013

The Islamic world created illuminated manuscripts that rivaled anything that came out of a medieval monastery: Qu’rans, historical chronicles, stories of the prophets, the deeds of kings, lyric poetry, heroic epics, philosophy, scientific treatises, and romantic tales. Caliphs, courtiers, and wealthy merchants commissioned manuscripts from the ninth century until well into the seventeenth century, when […]

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