"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Expanding Muslims and Shrinking Byzantines

Books about the encounter between Muslims and Eastern Christians in the seventh and subsequent centuries continue to emerge, shedding helpful light on a period and events still too little understood today. A recent such book, from an acclaimed Byzantinist, is that of Walter E. Kaegi, Muslim Expansion and Byzantine Collapse in North Africa (Cambridge UP, 2010), 366pp.

About this book, the publisher provides the following overview:
Who 'lost' Christian North Africa? Who won it and how? Walter Kaegi takes a fresh look at these perennial questions, with maps and on-site observations, in this exciting new book. Persisting clouds of suspicion and blame overshadowed many Byzantine attempts to defend North Africa, as Byzantines failed to meet the multiple challenges from different directions which ultimately overwhelmed them. While the Muslims forcefully and permanently turned Byzantine internal dynastic and religious problems and military unrest to their advantage, they brought their own strengths to a dynamic process that would take a long time to complete – the transformation of North Africa. An impartial comparative framework helps to sort through identity politics, 'Orientalism' charges and counter-charges, and institutional controversies; this book also includes a new study of the decisive battle of Sbeitla in 647, helping readers to understand what befell Byzantium, and indeed empires from Rome to the present.
The publisher further says of this book that it:
• Offers the first large-scale reinterpretation in English of the Muslim conquest of North Africa in the light of the Arabic, Greek and Latin sources, the latest modern scholarship, and visits to the sites with Maghribi scholars
• Surveys the cultural and historiographical dimensions of the end of Roman and Byzantine North Africa, with a separate chapter on 'historiographical hurdles' that block current understanding of Maghrib history
• Re-examines localities and terrain based on a reading of neglected Arabic sources and archives, travels, and on-site consultation
Kaegi is well known in treating these questions, having previously authored a book on Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium who oversaw the initial invasions and feeble military responses of the Byzantine Christians. In addition, Kaegi is the author of the groundbreaking study Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquest, also from Cambridge University Press (1995).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Anonymous comments are never approved. Use your real name and say something intelligent.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...