Middle Eastern History

The Crusades From Another Perspective

April 11, 2014

Recently I’ve been reading Sharan Newman’s Defending The City of God: A Medieval Queen, The First Crusade And The Quest for Peace In Jerusalem. It was a perfect read for March, which was Women’s History Month.* Newman tells the story of a historical figure who was completely new to me. Melisende (1105-1161) was the first […]

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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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You pays your money, you takes your choice….

January 17, 2013

Right now I’m reading a Big Fat History Book dealing with tenth century Europe.* In recent years I’ve spent a lot of time circling the boundaries of medieval Europe: the Carolingian Renaissance, Irish monks, Viking raiders, Pope Sylvester II, Muslim Spain, Muslim Sicily, the Islamic world in general. My current reading is making it clear […]

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From The Ruins of Empire

October 11, 2012

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.) It should be no surprise that Pankaj Mishra’s latest book caught my eye. In From the Ruins of Empire: The Intellectuals Who […]

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Ibn Who?

October 9, 2012

If you spend any time studying history in a serious way–whether in school and/or as a dedicated history nerd–you end up with a list in your head of Great Historians of the Past: Herodotus*, Thucydides, Tacitus, the Venerable Bede, Gibbon, Macaulay, Prescott. Even after their historical works were revised or even rejected by later scholars**, […]

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Alhazen: The First True Scientist?

September 19, 2012

Islamic scholar Abu Ali al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham (ca. 965-1041), known in the West as Alhazen, began his career as just another Islamic polymath. He soon got himself in trouble with the ruler of Cairo by boasting that he could regulate the flow of the Nile with a series of dams and dikes. At first glance, […]

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A Interview with Steve Kemper About A Labyrinth of Kingdoms

July 3, 2012

Sometimes a book grabs you by the throat and won’t let you put it down. I recently experienced that with Steve Kemper’s A Labyrinth of KIngdoms: 10,000 Miles Through Islamic Africa. I got so wrapped up in the story that I broke my long-standing rule about traveling with hardcover books because I wanted to finish […]

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Genghis Khan Revisited

June 26, 2012

First a little bit of business. Last week I announced that I was giving away a copy of this book: .   As promised, this morning My Own True Love drew a name out of my favorite summer hat.  The winner is Jessica, who blogs about books at Quirky Bookworm. Send me an e-mail with […]

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Stranger Magic

May 8, 2012

I’m fascinated by the Arabian Nights. By the stories themselves and the way they fit together into their complicated frame story. By their transformation from Arabic street tales to a established position in the Western canon.* By their echoes in Western culture, from the Romantic poets to Disney. So I was delighted to get a […]

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