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The Ismaili Assassins (Kindle)

A History of Medieval Murder

Reference Frontline eBooks Frontline: Medieval Women of History

By James Waterson, Foreword by David Morgan
Frontline Books
File Size: 61.3 MB (.mobi)
Pages: 256
ISBN: 9781783407866
eBook Released: 15th September 2008


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The Ismaili Assassins were an underground group of political killers who were ready to kill Christians and Muslims alike with complete disregard for their own lives. These devoted murderers were under the powerful control of a grand master who used assassination as part of a grand strategic vision that embraced Egypt, the Levant and Persia and even reached the court of the Mongol Khans in far away Qaraqorum.

The Assassins were meticulous in their killing. They often slayed their victims in public, thereby cultivating their terrifying reputation. They assumed disguises and their weapon of choice was a dagger. The dagger was blessed by the grand master and killing with it was a holy and sanctified act - poison or other methods of murder were forbidden to the followers of the sect.
Surviving a mission was considered a deep dishonour and mothers rejoiced when they heard that their Assassin sons had died having completed their deadly acts.

Their formidable reputation spread far and wide. In 1253, the Mongol chiefs were so fearful of them that they massacred and enslaved the Assassins' women and children in an attempt to liquidate the sect. The English monarch, Edward I, was nearly dispatched by their blades and Richard the Lionheart's reputation was sullied by his association with the Assassins' murder of Conrad of Montferrat.

The Ismaili Assassins explores the origins, actions and legacy of this notorious sect. Enriched with eyewitness accounts from Islamic and Western sources, this important book unlocks the history of the Crusades and the early Islamic period, giving the reader entry into a historical epoch that is thrilling and pertinent.

The Assassins were not only responsible in large part for the success of the First Crusade, with their killing of Nizam al-Mulk...They were also responsible for the counter-Crusade that brought Zangi, Nur al-Din and Saladin to the fray with the Crusaders, and ultimately led to the Malluk war machine that finished Outremer's existence." Waterson does not simply summarize outcomes and effects of the Assassin's presence throughout Middle Eastern history and society over centuries, but narrates specifics of it. Without losing sight of the uniqueness of the Assassins and particularities of Islamic society and religion giving rise to them, the author weaves the Assassin's history, their political ideology, and their determined, deadly tactics into the broader tapestry of the region's history from their origination to the height of their influence to their fading as a historical force.

Midwest Book Review.com
 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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