In the Shadow of the Sword

In the Shadow of the Sword

The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire

Book - 2012
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No less significant than the collapse of the Roman Republic or the Persian invasion of Greece, the evolution of the Arab empire is one of the supreme narratives of ancient history, a story dazzlingly rich in drama, character, and achievement. Just like the Romans, the Arabs came from nowhere to carve out a stupefyingly vast dominion except that they achieved their conquests not over the course of centuries as the Romans did but in a matter of decades. Just like the Greeks during the Persian wars, they overcame seemingly insuperable odds to emerge triumphant against the greatest empire of the day, not by standing on the defensive, however, but by hurling themselves against all who lay in their path.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, c2012
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780385531351
Branch Call Number: 956.013 HOLLAND
Characteristics: x, 526 p. : col. ill., maps ; 25 cm


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The title is derived from a saying attributed to Muhammad: “Do not look for a fight with the enemy. Beg God for peace and security. But if you do end up facing the enemy, then show endurance, and remember that the gates of Paradise lie in the shadow of the sword.” This is another huge (527 pp) tome by this widely admired, brilliant professional British historian who has written about the end of the Roman Republic, the origins of Christianity, and the Persian Wars. While written in an engaging style, it is nevertheless a dauntingly detailed, and consequently very rewarding treatise.

May 04, 2017

This is challenging reading. The style of writing makes it very hard to follow. Although, I was hoping to learn more about this period of history there were a few interesting nuggets.

Jun 08, 2013

Badly written, very long run-on sentences, multiple clauses. It is hard to tell what is "fact" and what is "fiction" from the way the author writes. The author provides endnotes for quoted (but not unquoted) material, giving the impression this is an academic book, but it most certainly is not.

A case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. The author includes every detail, no matter how trivial or irrevelant, but gives no summary, and never discusses ideas. Reminds me of everything that I disliked about high-school history lessons. A real struggle to read.


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