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

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This accessible and informative history brings the classical Islamic world alive, illuminating its importance as the inheritor and interpreter of Greco-Roman traditions to the cultural history of Europe and America

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Editorial Reviews

David Waines
“Amira Bennison's engaging history of the ‘Abbasid caliphate moves beyond more conventional or drier accounts of political intrigue among ruling elites and sectarian squabbles. The author adopts a broader and deeper approach, focusing above all on ‘the people:’ that mosaic of urban and rural folk who individually and collectively make up a civilization. Women, children, beggars, tricksters, merchants and pilgrims—as well as the great cities that brought them all together—are given fascinating coverage. Nor does the author neglect the community of scholars cultivated by the ‘Abbasids who - in the fields of literature, philosophy, theology, mathematics and astronomy—left their indelible mark upon Islamic civilization. The Great Caliphs is an important work which offers a new and stimulating perspective on an exciting era.”— David Waines, Lancaster University
William A. Graham
“Aimed at the educated general reader, this volume offers a sweeping portrayal of major Islamic cultures and societies down to the 13th century AD and occasionally beyond. Drawing on both primary sources and secondary studies, the author provides a lively survey of politics, urban and rural life, societal and religious realities, trade and commerce, and elite culture and learning, with attention to issues of race/ethnicity, gender, and class. Her book is a thoughtful introduction to society, culture, and characteristic institutions as these took shape in the central and western reaches of the Islamic world, from Iran to Spain and Morocco, in the ‘Abbasid era.”—William A. Graham, Harvard University
“. . .concise and comprehensive.”—Choice
“. . .concise and comprehensive.”—Choice
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300152272
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/22/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Amira K. Bennison is senior lecturer in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgements ix

Note on Transliteration and Arabic Conventions x

Introduction 1

1 A Stormy Sea: The Politics of the 'Abbasid Caliphate 10

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

2 From Baghdad to Cordoba: The Cities of Classical Islam 54

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

3 Princes and Beggars: Life and Society in the 'Abbasid Age 94

Peasants and country folk

The people of the city

Women and children

The religious minorities

Beggars and tricksters

4 The Lifeblood of Empire: Trade and Traders in the 'Abbasid Age 137

Routes and commodities

Merchants and pilgrims

Trade facilities

5 Baghdad's 'Golden Age': Islam's Scientific Renaissance 158

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

6 The 'Abbasid Legacy 203

Notes 216

Bibliography 225

Index 235

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