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When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam's Greatest Dynasty
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When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World: The Rise and Fall of Islam's Greatest Dynasty

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  223 Ratings  ·  25 Reviews
The "golden age of Islam" in the eighth and ninth centuries was as significant to world history as the Roman Empire was in the first and second centuries. The rule of Baghdad's Abbasid Dynasty stretched from Tunisia to India, and its legacy influenced politics and society for years to come. In this deftly woven narrative, Hugh Kennedy introduces us to the rich history and ...more
Paperback, 376 pages
Published March 14th 2006 by Da Capo Press (first published September 9th 2004)
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When Baghdad Ruled the Muslim World claims to introduce us to the history and flourishing culture of the "golden age of Islam." Overall, there aren't too many books on the market to compare to but the scope of the work is interesting and relatively unexplored by most scholars. Unfortunately, the book doesn't live up to all of the expectations I had for it.

Hugh Kennedy admirably tries to tell the history of the Abbasids in as a story but fails to achieve the level of storytelling success that one
أحمد نفادي
تاريخ العائلة العباسية من أصعب الفترات التي من الممكن التأريخ لها لأسباب عدة فأولا من الصعب تحديد المقصود ب "الخلافة العباسية " هل هي الفترة التي حكم فيها العباسيون حتى سقوط بغداد على يد المغول ومقتل الخليفة العباسي "المستعصم " أم هي تشمل أيضا الفترة التي أقامها المماليك في مصر مع الظاهر بيبرس أيضا حينما نصبوا أحد بني العباس باسم الخلافة وحتى ظهور العثمانيين ؟ أم هي الفترة التي حُكم فيها اسما وفعلا باسم العباسيين وهي ما بعد خلافة المتوكل حيث سيطر الترك على الخلافة وأصبحوا هم من يتحكم في تولية من ...more
Oct 01, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: islamichistory
A nice departure from the traditional, textbook-style history book. A good way to read up on an important period in Muslim and world history ... you remember it more because it's told like a story. Also very factually on top of its game.
Tony Gualtieri
Interesting stories of court life during the Abbasid Caliphate. The book is poorly organized, jumping around chronologically and spitting events up between chapters. I enjoyed it but can't recommend it.
Jul 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
I don't know why other reviewer said the author was biased against Islam. For example:
“The financial resources of the queen mother were also a sort of financial reserve for the caliphs in times of greatest need. In a society where government borrowing from banks or individuals was impossible, the wealth of the harem could be a valuable cushion against financial disaster.”

In the previous paragraph he wrote about one queen mother who refused to help her son financially and this led to his grues
Aatif Rashid
Feb 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Admirable scope and detail, recounting the history of the Abbasid Caliphate from its founding in the mid 700s to the Anarchy at Samarra in the late 800s, and exploring not just politics, but culture too, in the form of court poetry and the lives of women. The structure was somewhat disjointed, moving back and forth in the chronology, which felt strange for a supposedly narrative history, and often the book summarized events rather than analyzed their larger significance. Still, like all of Hugh ...more
Elliott Bignell
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kennedy has created a light and engaging introduction to an important part of history upon which much attention has been focussed in recent years. He may, as one reviewer suggested, have done so in a bit of a hurry as a response to the sudden celebrity of the Caliphate. The book certainly feels like the end was a little rushed. With Iraq finally successfully bombed back into the Stone Age and bin Laden's messages circulating calling for the restoration of the Caliphate, it is a good time to be l ...more
Mark Rossiter
Oct 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
In January I read Hugh Kennedy’s book about the great Arab conquests, which burst rough-necked upon the world at the very moment when the heavyweight, overweight Sassanid and Byzantine empires were punch-drunk from 30 years of grueling mutual warfare, destroying the former and reducing the latter to a stunted rump, saved only by the chain drawn across the Golden Horn. That was a fantastic book, full of legends of the rough-and-ready mounted warriors who, to their own amazement as well as everyon ...more
Dec 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing
From Booklist
Baghdad was founded in 762 by the Abbasid caliphate, which, claiming its legitimacy from lineage to the family of the prophet Muhammad, had overthrown the Umayyad caliphate. Chronicling the first two of the Abbasids' five centuries of rule, historian Kennedy acquaints nonspecialists with an important segment of Islamic history, perhaps best known to Westerners as the period setting for Arabian Nights. Sensitive to the biases of available sources, Kennedy picks through their panegyri
Apr 20, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somewhat interesting, if a little dry at times.
Admittedly I picked this up because 1) it was on sale, and 2) my knowledge of this time period and geography was based exclusively on Disney's Aladdin .

In a period of about 200 years, from around the mid-700 ADs to the mid-900s, the Muslim community ranging from Egypt in the west to the Himalayas in the east united under the Abbasid caliphate in an attempt to directly carry on the mission of the Prophet Muhammad. The eastern territories (comprised
Simon Jones
Jun 27, 2014 rated it really liked it
A number of people have commented that they found this a difficult read, as the narrative jumps around rather than taking a smooth chronological flow and that sometimes information seems to be repeated. I found myself agreeing at first until I got used to the style in which the historical narrative is alternated with chapters looking at aspects of Abbasid court life, in which events are referenced but not necessarily explained in context until the following chapter. Once I worked this out I went ...more
Aug 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
(Disclaimer that I know nothing about this period of history except that the Abbasid dynasty did exist, so for all I know, Kennedy made the whole thing up. But if he did, he did so entertainingly.) Very engaging guide to the Abbasid dynasty - good level of information mixed with exciting anecdotes to keep a newcomer to the subject entertained. Occasional slightly jarring lapses into very informal language - most of the time it was standard formal phraseology, and then sometimes you could imagine ...more
Feb 19, 2014 rated it did not like it
Although the book contained rich information, I found it poorly organised, repetitive, incoherent (at times) and lacked proper historical analysis. I understand the writer wants to reach out to laypersons by narrating "The Abbasid era" in a storytelling format but only manages to make it dull and dry. I felt the writer spent too much time on personal tales, corruption , betrayal and scandals(though some are shocking and interesting at the same time).I expected more on geo-politics and social ana ...more
Oct 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Niet een verschrikkelijk diepgravend geschiedenisboek, maar (voor mij) vooral interessant omdat er parallellen zijn met het huidige gedrag van de verschillende Arabische leiders, zelfs die van IS.
Het gaat over de dynastie van de Abassiden, die regeerden van ca 700 tot bijna 1100. De schirjver baseert zich op manuscripten van tijdgenoten en je krijgt zo een aardig beeld van het leven aan het hof van de verschillende kaliefs. Het is beslist geen "Duizend en een nacht" verhaal, hoewel Haroen er wel
Steven Yenzer
Suffers from certain organizational problems; the chapters don't seem to exist on the same level of specificity, and often repeat or reiterate information without acknowledging that it was already given.

There is also little in the way of an overarching introduction, so many caliphs appear without context and before we've been told who they are.

In short, it seems like a series of very loosely connected essays intended for someone without at least some familiarity with the subject. Not particula
Sep 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
3.5. Informative read sprinkled with illustrative anecdotes and facts about court life, customs, arts, architecture and reality of the harem in a scholarly way, making it not just a long dull chronicle of politics. Gets a little dry sometimes and sometimes gets challenging to keep track of the giant cast. Makes me want to jet off to Iraq and visit the sites in Ukhaydir and Samarra. Alas, the magical old Baghdad is no more.
Για την ακρίβεια 4.5 αστεράκια

Η ιστορία του χαλιφάτου των Αββασιδών. Πρόκειται για μια περίοδο της ιστορίας που γνωρίζουμε στην Ελλάδα ελαφρώς, αλλά μόνο από την άλλη μεριά των συνόρων: από την μεριά της Βυζαντινής αυτοκρατορίας. Ένα ενδιαφέρον βιβλίο, χωρίς την δυσκαμψία των ιστορικών κειμένων και με κεφάλαια που χωρίζουν ευκρινώς τις διάφορες διαστάσεις της ισλαμικής αυτοκρατορίας. Μόνο στο κεφάλαιο για το χαρέμι με κούρασε ελαφρώς. Αλλά παρ'όλα αυτά ένα βιβλίο που μου πρόσφερε γνώσεις.
Brian Wright
Nov 08, 2013 rated it liked it
I found this book to be very dry, lots of information crammed into a short text, and some of the information mentioned was outright wrong. For example, the author mentions that the conflict between the Alids and the Abbasids was partially due to the fact that Abbas died a non Muslim, not true at all according to all the traditional sources.
This is a very informative but dense book--I'm not a slouch at keeping track of names, but I was constantly consulting the family tree to figure out where in time we were. It is much more a political history than a social history, although I was glad for the chapters that did touch on what life was like.
Jun 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Excellent booking to get to the foundation of islam and how a tribe took over a country. Excellent discussion on the schism between the two original sects. It is a must read to show the power that is and always was baghdad.
Raaha As'art
Nov 20, 2007 marked it as to-read
It's in my bookshelf, and the first few pages look promising. But can't say I've read enough of it to make any kind of judgement about it.
Aug 26, 2009 rated it really liked it

Interesting but leaden writing - the Islamic chapters in C. Wickham book reviewed previously are much better even though only a small part of a big whole

Sep 30, 2008 rated it it was ok
Lots of interesting stuff, but the arrangement by topic rather than timeline makes it tough to keep up with if you're not reading it in a pretty short timeframe.
Yusra Rashid
rated it really liked it
Mar 20, 2016
Tamim Kashgari
rated it liked it
Nov 04, 2012
rated it it was amazing
Nov 09, 2012
rated it it was ok
Jun 03, 2012
Saif Hasan
rated it really liked it
Feb 21, 2017
rated it it was ok
Oct 21, 2008
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NOTE: There is more than one author with this name on Goodreads.

Has studies Arabic at the Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies. Went on to read Arabic, Persian & History at Cambridge. Taught in the Department of Medieval History at St Andrews since 1972, and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2000).
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“But, as the ninth-century cultural critic Jahiz wrote, `Some people who affect asceticism and self denial are uneasy and embarrassed when cunt, cock and fucking are mentioned but most men you find like that are without knowledge, honour, nobility or dignity.'2 I have certainly not played up these features of the narrative,” 0 likes
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