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In the Shadow of the Sword : The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire - Tom Holland

In the Shadow of the Sword

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

Paperback

Published: 12th February 2013
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The acclaimed author of Rubicon and other superb works of popular history now produces a thrillingly panoramic (and incredibly timely) account of the rise of Islam. 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.

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Enlightening view of a divisive subject

5

The cover invites the view that this is yet another attack on Islam. But that is is not true at all, actually it is a secular viewpoint of a fascinating turning point in the history of the major world religions, being the fall of Zoroastrianism and Arianism, the dogged survival of Orthodoxy and the rise of Catholicism and Islam against the background of Empires rising and falling. It is a marvelously balanced read. It travels the path of Edward Gibbons with a modern twist and overall it is a riveting book. I loved it.

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Praise for Tom Holland's In the Shadow of the Sword"Elegantly written. . . . A veritable tour de force."--The Wall Street Journal "A brilliant tour de force of revisionist scholarship and thrilling storytelling with a bloodspattered cast of swashbuckling tyrants, nymphomaniacal empresses and visionary prophets. The book is unputdownable. . . . An important work based on respected scholarship. It takes courage and intellect to confront such complexity and sensitivity. Written with flamboyant elegance and energetic intensity." --The Times (London) "Accessible but delightful . . . as fun to read as any thriller, and with far richer intellectual nutritional content. . . . Those unwilling to struggle through academic texts have long needed a guide to the story of Islam as it's understood by those with the fullest access to the latest linguistic and archaeological evidence. Now at last in Tom Holland's In the Shadow of the Sword, they finally have it. . . . Holland--author previously of Rubicon and Persian Fire--is about as exciting a stylist as we have writing history today."--The Daily Beast "[Holland's] prose is shot through with wit and empathy. The result is a portrait of a lost world that is complex, contradictory and populated by people in thrall to ideas future generations would dismiss as ridiculous. Much like our own, in other words."--Dallas Morning News "[An] elegant study of the roiling era of internecine religious rivalry and epic strife that saw the nation of Islam rise and conquer. . . . Holland confronts questions in the Quranic text head-on, providing a substantive, fluid exegesis on the original documents. Smoothly composed history and fine scholarship." --Kirkus Reviews "Tom Holland is a writer of clarity and expertise, who talks us through this unfamiliar and crowded territory with energy and some dry wit. . . . The emergence of Islam is a notoriously risky subject, so a confident historian who is able to explain where this great religion came from without illusion or dissimulation has us greatly in his debt." --The Spectator (London) "This is a book of extraordinary richness. I found myself amused, diverted and enchanted by turn. For Tom Holland has an enviable gift for summoning up the colour, the individuals and animation of the past, without sacrificing factual integrity. He writes with a contagious conviction that history is not only a fascinating tale in itself but is a well-honed instrument with which we can understand our neighbours and our own times, maybe even ourselves. He is also a divertingly inventive writer with a wicked wit--there's something of both Gibbon and Tom Wolfe in his writing. In the Shadow of the Sword remains a spell-bindingly brilliant multiple portrait of the triumph of monotheism in the ancient world." --The Independent (London) "This is a handsome volume, tackling an important question from a novel perspective."--Sunday Telegraph (London) "Holland tells a complex story, dotted with names and places leagues beyond the realm of popular recognition. Yet he makes it unmistakably his own. He is one of the most distinctive prose stylists writing history today, and he drags his tale by the ears, conjuring the half-vanished past with such gusto that characters and places fairly bound from the page. In the Shadow of the Sword may reach provocative conclusions, but it is also a work of impressive sensitivity and scholarship." --Telegraph (London) "An exhilarating read because Holland succeeds in capturing much of the excitement, strangeness and importance of a long past age. It is difficult not to be bedazzled." --Financial Times (London) "An ambitious and important book. . . . His excellent book will be lauded, as it should be for doing what the best sort of books can do--examining holy cows." --The Observer (London) Praise for Tom Holland's "In the Shadow of the Sword" Elegantly written. . . . A veritable tour de force. "The Wall Street Journal" A brilliant tour de force of revisionist scholarship and thrilling storytelling with a bloodspattered cast of swashbuckling tyrants, nymphomaniacal empresses and visionary prophets. The book is unputdownable. . . . An important work based on respected scholarship. It takes courage and intellect to confront such complexity and sensitivity. Written with flamboyant elegance and energetic intensity. "The Times" (London) Accessible but delightful . . . as fun to read as any thriller, and with far richer intellectual nutritional content. . . . Those unwilling to struggle through academic texts have long needed a guide to the story of Islam as it s understood by those with the fullest access to the latest linguistic and archaeological evidence. Now at last in Tom Holland s "In the Shadow of the Sword," they finally have it. . . . Holland author previously of "Rubicon" and "Persian Fire" is about as exciting a stylist as we have writing history today. "The Daily Beast" [Holland s] prose is shot through with wit and empathy. The result is a portrait of a lost world that is complex, contradictory and populated by people in thrall to ideas future generations would dismiss as ridiculous. Much like our own, in other words. "Dallas Morning News" [An] elegant study of the roiling era of internecine religious rivalry and epic strife that saw the nation of Islam rise and conquer. . . . Holland confronts questions in the Quranic text head-on, providing a substantive, fluid exegesis on the original documents. Smoothly composed history and fine scholarship. "Kirkus Reviews" Tom Holland is a writer of clarity and expertise, who talks us through this unfamiliar and crowded territory with energy and some dry wit. . . . The emergence of Islam is a notoriously risky subject, so a confident historian who is able to explain where this great religion came from without illusion or dissimulation has us greatly in his debt. "The Spectator" (London) This is a book of extraordinary richness. I found myself amused, diverted and enchanted by turn. For Tom Holland has an enviable gift for summoning up the colour, the individuals and animation of the past, without sacrificing factual integrity. He writes with a contagious conviction that history is not only a fascinating tale in itself but is a well-honed instrument with which we can understand our neighbours and our own times, maybe even ourselves. He is also a divertingly inventive writer with a wicked wit there s something of both Gibbon and Tom Wolfe in his writing. In the Shadow of the Sword remains a spell-bindingly brilliant multiple portrait of the triumph of monotheism in the ancient world. "The Independent" (London) This is a handsome volume, tackling an important question from a novel perspective. "Sunday Telegraph "(London) Holland tells a complex story, dotted with names and places leagues beyond the realm of popular recognition. Yet he makes it unmistakably his own. He is one of the most distinctive prose stylists writing history today, and he drags his tale by the ears, conjuring the half-vanished past with such gusto that characters and places fairly bound from the page. "In the Shadow of the Sword "may reach provocative conclusions, but it is also a work of impressive sensitivity and scholarship. "Telegraph "(London) An exhilarating read because Holland succeeds in capturing much of the excitement, strangeness and importance of a long past age. It is difficult not to be bedazzled. "Financial Times" (London) An ambitious and important book. . . . His excellent book will be lauded, as it should be for doing what the best sort of books can do examining holy cows. "The Observer" (London)" Praise for "In the Shadow of the Sword: ""[Tom Holland's] conclusions may be tentative, but they are convincing. His book is elegantly written and refreshingly free from specialist jargon. Marshaling its resources with dexterity, it is a veritable tour de force."--Malise Ruthven, "Wall Street Journal" "Those unwilling to struggle through academic texts have long needed a guide to the story of Islam as it's understood by those with the fullest access to the latest linguistic and archaeological evidence. Now at last in Tom Holland's "In the Shadow of the Sword," they finally have it.... Holland--author previously of "Rubicon" and "Persian Fire"--is about as exciting a stylist as we have writing history today.... [This book is] accessible but delightful...as fun to read as any thriller, and with far richer intellectual nutritional content."--David Frum, "Daily Beast" """The life of Muhammad and the rise of Islam are boldly re-examined in this brilliantly provocative history.... [An] ambitious and...important book.... Holland is a skilful and energetic narrator, and while he guides us along the more intricate twists and turns of the period, he also keeps our eyes on the bigger story."--Anthony Sattin, "Guardian Observer" (London) """[An] elegant study of the roiling era of internecine religious rivalry and epic strife that saw the nation of Islam rise and conquer.... Holland confronts questions in the Quranic text head-on, providing a substantive, fluid exegesis on the original documents. Smoothly composed history and fine scholarship."--"Kirkus Reviews" "This is a book of extraordinary richness. I found myself amused, diverted and enchanted by turn. For Tom Holland has an enviable gift for summoning up the colour, the individuals and animation of the past, without sacrificing factual integrity. He writes with a contagious conviction that history is not only a fascinating tale in itself but is a well-honed instrument withb Praise for "In the Shadow of the Sword: ""The life of Muhammad and the rise of Islam are boldly re-examined in this brilliantly provocative history.... [An] ambitious and...important book.... Holland is a skilful and energetic narrator, and while he guides us along the more intricate twists and turns of the period, he also keeps our eyes on the bigger story."--Anthony Sattin, "Guardian Observer" (London) """[An] elegant study of the roiling era of internecine religious rivalry and epic strife that saw the nation of Islam rise and conquer.... Holland confronts questions in the Quranic text head-on, providing a substantive, fluid exegesis on the original documents. Smoothly composed history and fine scholarship."--"Kirkus Reviews" "This is a book of extraordinary richness. I found myself amused, diverted and enchanted by turn. For Tom Holland has an enviable gift for summoning up the colour, the individuals and animation of the past, without sacrificing factual integrity. He writes with a contagious conviction that history is not only a fascinating tale in itself but is a well-honed instrument with which we can understand our neighbours and our own times, maybe even ourselves. He is also a divertingly inventive writer with a wicked wit - there's something of both Gibbon and Tom Wolfe in his writing... [and] he possesses a falcon eye for detail.... [A] spell-bindingly brilliant multiple portrait of the triumph of monotheism in the ancient world."--Barnaby Rogerson, the "Independent" (London) "This dramatic investigation of the origins of Islam is both a thrilling narrative history and a compelling piece of detective work.... A compelling detective story of the highest order, "In the Shadow of the Sword" is also a dazzlingly colourful journey into the world of late antiquity. We encounter brain-eating demons; a caliph with such oral-hygiene problems that he could kill a fly with one breath; and that old favourite, StSimeo Praise for "In the Shadow of the Sword: ""This is a book of extraordinary richness. I found myself amused, diverted and enchanted by turn. For Tom Holland has an enviable gift for summoning up the colour, the individuals and animation of the past, without sacrificing factual integrity. He writes with a contagious conviction that history is not only a fascinating tale in itself but is a well-honed instrument with which we can understand our neighbours and our own times, maybe even ourselves. He is also a divertingly inventive writer with a wicked wit - there's something of both Gibbon and Tom Wolfe in his writing... [and] he possesses a falcon eye for detail.... [A] spell-bindingly brilliant multiple portrait of the triumph of monotheism in the ancient world."--Barnaby Rogerson, the "Independent" (London) "This dramatic investigation of the origins of Islam is both a thrilling narrative history and a compelling piece of detective work.... A compelling detective story of the highest order, "In the Shadow of the Sword" is also a dazzlingly colourful journey into the world of late antiquity. We encounter brain-eating demons; a caliph with such oral-hygiene problems that he could kill a fly with one breath; and that old favourite, StSimeon Stylites, rotting away on his pillar but still managing to miraculously cure a man with unfeasibly large testicles, "like a pair of clay jars." Every bit as thrilling a narrative history as Holland's previous works, "In the Shadow of the Sword" is also a profoundly important book. It makes public and popular what scholarship has beendiscovering for several decades now: and those discoveries suggest a wholesale revision of where Islam came from and what it is."--Christopher Hart, "Sunday Times" (London) "[M]agnificent...and brave....The historian and author of "Rubicon" and "Persian Fire" has now, after five years' work, come up with "In the Shadow of the Sword." His story is so compellingly tol Praise for "The Forge of Christendom""An entertaining account of the fraught last years of the Dark Ages."-- "The""Wall Street Journal""An enjoyable and exuberantly argued book . . . Holland combines sound scholarly credentials with a gift for storytelling on a magisterial scale . . . In a tightly woven and sometimes witty narrative, [Holland demonstrates] the subtle interplay of genuine religious sentiment and cynical power politics."--"The Economist""[This] is narrative history in the grand manner, written with the panache and confidence we associate with the great historians of the 18th and 19th centuries."--Allan Massie, "The""Daily Telegraph""A superb, fascinating and erudite medieval banquet."--Simon Sebag-Montefiore, "Evening Standard"Praise for "Persian Fire""Excellent . . . Holland is a cool-headed historian who writes here no less authoritatively and engagingly on classical Greece than he did on ancient Rome in his last book, "Rubicon"."--Mary Beard, "The Times Literary Supplement""It is . . . a testament to Holland's superlative powers as a narrative historian that he brings this tumultuous, epoch-making period dazzlingly to life, and makes the common reader familiar again with one of the most thrilling periods in world history." --William Napier, "The""Independent"Praise for "Rubicon""Not since Ronald Syme's "The Roman Revolution" has there been such an original and enlivening piece of Roman history. Tom Holland has the rare gift of making deep scholarship accessible and exciting. A brilliant and completely absorbing study."--A.N. Wilson"A book that really held me, in fact, obsessed me . . . Narrative history at its best." -Ian McEwan, "The""Guardian", Books of the Year "Richly resonant. . . . Ancient history lives in this vivid chronicle."--"Booklist" (starred review)

ISBN: 9780307473653
ISBN-10: 0307473651
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 526
Published: 12th February 2013
Publisher: Three Rivers Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 22.23 x 14.61  x 3.18
Weight (kg): 0.53