Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In

The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In

3.0 1
by Hugh Kennedy

See All Formats & Editions

In this engaging history, world-renowned historian Hugh Kennedy deftly sews together the stories of the people, armies, and events that conquered an area from Spain to China in just over 100 years.


In this engaging history, world-renowned historian Hugh Kennedy deftly sews together the stories of the people, armies, and events that conquered an area from Spain to China in just over 100 years.

Editorial Reviews

Books & Culture
Hugh Kennedy describes and convincingly analyzes the astonishing story of how the Arabs took over the Middle East.
New York Times Book Review
A brisk account of Islam's momentous first century.
The Economist
By painstakingly reconstructing the series of Arab conquests, Mr. Kennedy paints a picture strikingly at odds with the popular clich‚s.Mr. Kennedy tells a remarkable tale with skill and authority.
San Diego Union-Tribune
Send a copy to the frat boys in the State Department...in the hope that they might remember the past so the rest of us aren't condemned to repeat it.
Financial Times
This excellent guide to the campaigns initiated by Mohammed is highly relevant today.Not least, the account helps explain many of the current borders of the Muslim world. It also provides the early context for religious ideas that continue to motivate believers.A highly-readable account of remote events that still have a striking relevance for the shape of our modern world.
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Bush administration might have given all the Annapolis participants a swag bag-the mix of goodies Hollywood presenters get at the Oscars-packed with a copy.of The Great Arab Conquests.That would guarantee heated but honest future negotiations.State[s] historical truths most nonexperts, general readers and politicians ignore. The key truth laid out in fine narrative style by Kennedy.is that the Islamic and Arabic character of every Mideast nation outside of present-day Saudi Arabia is the blunt result of military conquest.
Charleston Post and Courier
Though the scope of the book appears slightly daunting, Kennedy surprises in giving unexpected texture and depth to these large-scale religious, military and political events.An eminently readable history of one of the most significant periods in world history.A dynamic, well-written account of the spread of Islam.
An extremely readable work.in the flowing narrative style for which [Kennedy] has become known.An extremely valuable addition to the discipline.Highly recommended.
Library Journal

This is a fascinating historical narrative of the Arab Muslim conquests of the Middle East and beyond from 632 C.E. to 750 C.E. Kennedy (medieval history, Univ. of St. Andrews, Scotland; When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam's Greatest Dynasty) does a marvelous job of drawing upon and interpreting the written conquest accounts of the Arabs, and of the people they conquered, including the Byzantines, Christians, Persians, and Jews, while using the research of modern historians to give as clear and rich an account as possible. His analysis comes down to the instability of the Byzantine and Persian Empires, the small populations owing to the plague that occurred just before the conquests, the absence of any real resistance by local populations being conquered, and the toughness of the Arab armies and their ability to move quickly. The book also includes a chapter of personal responses (both positive and negative) to the conquests, ranging from a Chinese prisoner of war to letters of vanquished Greeks. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.
—Melissa Aho

Kirkus Reviews
Talk about your clash of civilizations. How is it, wonders Kennedy (When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam's Greatest Dynasty, 2005, etc), that a comparative handful of desert herdsmen could conquer much of the known world and topple several venerable empires in the bargain?In 632 CE, when Muhammad died, Islam was confined to a few parts of the Arabian Peninsula. The dominant power in the region was the Byzantine Empire, with Greek the lingua franca of Egypt and the Holy Land; in much of the Middle East, Arabic was unknown. Yet, notes Kennedy, something unexpected happened; within the next century, Arabic-speaking armies, most smaller than 20,000 men, emerged from the Arabian desert and took down states from Portugal to Pakistan. The Muslim doctrine of jihad fit nicely with this unprecedented expansion, but it seems clear from Kennedy's anecdote-rich narrative that there was more to it than all that; the possibility of leaving the desert for more congenial, better-watered climes beckoned, and so did the prospect for wealth and booty figure. One telling tale, in that regard, concerns a man who tried to enlist, was warned that he might be martyred as a holy warrior and tried to back out-until he dreamed that should he join he would become rich, "which proved more enticing than the spiritual benefits." But the larger explanation for success, as Kennedy observes, is that the Arab armies were just that-armies: "The early Muslim conquests were not achieved by a migration of Bedouin tribesmen with their families, tents and flocks in the way that the Saljuk Turks entered the Middle East in the eleventh century," he writes. "They were achieved by fighting men underorders." Blend discipline, training and ideology with hunger, set all this up against ripe, decadent, even corrupt targets, and the Arab conquest seems nearly inevitable. A little-known history lucidly told, with episodes that might have come out of today's headlines.
From the Publisher
Saudi Aramco World
“A lively tour d’horizon of the Muslim world circa 750…Each section’s tight geographical focus and ample bibliography make this a helpful guide.”

Claremont Review of Books, Fall 2008
“Comprehensive and scholarly…[Kennedy] is a real historian, doing what a historian ought to do…Kennedy has a good eye for a colorful story.”

Military History Quarterly, Fall 2008
“Kennedy’s account is a thoughtful reminder of how even the most epochal world-changing events can turn on the unanticipated intersection of a handful of diverse contingencies.”

Product Details

Da Capo Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Hugh Kennedy is Professor of Arabic at the School of Arabic Studies in London, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Professor Kennedy lives in the United Kingdom.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews

The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a rather well written introductory book. It is more or less verbatim translation of Arab conquest histories into English. No effort has been made to critically appraise the original sources. If you know absolutely nothing about that period in history, it will provide you with a very one sided narrative. The author also suffers from a very common shortcoming of Arabists: while the bulk of the book is about Arab conquests in Iran, Spain, and North Africa, the author knows next to nothing about the histories of these regions. To put it kindly, his information about cultural, political, economic, and military history of Sassanid Persia (Iran, Iraq and parts of Caucasus and Central Asia and one of the two major empires of the late antiquity) is non existent, and it gets worse when he talks about Berber tribes in modern Algeria and Morocco, their relationship with Muslims and Byzantines, and their history and culture. He just repeats the Arabic texts without paying any attention to the research done in these areas within the last 50 years! Also, since professor Patricia Crone's influential work in late 1970s, there are a lot of doubts about the veracity of Islamic historiography. Many texts, including Koran itself, have been critically reread over the last 30 years. The author just glosses over all these works. In the end, it is an OK book, but not great.