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Sacred Swords (Hardback)

Jihad in the Holy Land, 1097-1295

Medieval History All Frontline Books Frontline: Medieval

By James Waterson, Foreword by Terry Jones
Frontline Books
Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781848325807
Published: 20th September 2010

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In 1071 Muslim Turks crushed the Byzantine Emperor s Anatolian army at Manzikert. The Crusades, the West s response to this catastrophe, are well known as are the names of the European nobles who fought in them. The names and deeds of many of the Crusaders opponents in the Holy Land are often unfamiliar to Western readers. Using primarily Muslim sources, Sacred Swords reconstructs the politics of the Levant on the eve of the First Crusade and places it in the wider context of the Muslim world of the period. This was a realm where war with the Crusaders was only one part of the military and political endeavours of a Muslim prince of the Levant. Much of the action is comprehensible only when the outlook and position of the Princes is understood. Waterson tells the story of the famed leaders of the jihad the lives and deeds of Zangi, Nur al-Din, Saladin and Baybars are all recounted. Sacred Swords also illustrates the evolution of the jihad in which these Princes were engaged. The story of the Holy War that would eventually destroy the Latin Kingdom is traced and analysed from its origins among the Princes of northern Iraq, as is the long naval contest that raged between the navy of Egypt and the Crusader fleets.

The author has already written two good books on the period (on the Assassins and the Mamluks), and in this volume he explains the importance of good leadership in allowing the Muslims to recover their lost lands.
Waterson negotiates the complex history of the period very well, although a reader new to the topic will need to concentrate hard on unfamiliar names of people and places.
The book is a crossover between history and a military history, with a good analysis of troop types and clear descriptions of the battles to satisfy the requirements of the latter.

Medieval Warfare Magazine
 James Waterson

About James Waterson

James Waterson is a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and received his Master’s Degree from the University of Dundee. He travelled and worked in the United States and China for a number of years but now calls Tuscany home and Dubai 'the office'. He has, at various times, been an actor in Chinese movies, a radio host, an oil rig worker, and a university lecturer.

Defending Heaven, his 2013 history of China's long resistance to the Mongol invasions, is his fourth book and he was inspired to write it by an after dinner chat with Jung Chang at the 2009 Emirates Airlines International Festival of Literature in Dubai.

Sacred Swords, published in 2010, completed a trilogy of books covering the mediaeval Middle East and he likes to think that the idea for a history of jihad in the Holy Land during the Crusades period, came to him during a quiet moment in the courtyard of Damascus' Great Mosque.

The Ismaili Assassins, which grew from his travels in Iran was published in 2008 and has been praised for de-mystifying the sect and yet making them even more intriguing. It has become the basis for a forthcoming TV show titled ‘Ancient Dark Ops’.

His first book, The Knights of Islam, a history of the slave soldiers and sultans of Islam was started on a nearly dead laptop propped up on an ironing board in Shanghai, added to in a London bedsit and completed on a building site masquerading as a house in the Appenines; eventually being published in 2007. It has become a standard undergraduate text in both the United States and in the UK.

Video clip: Ancient Black Ops | Yesterday Channel


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