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The Ismaili Assassins (Paperback)

A History of Medieval Murder

Military > Frontline Books > Frontline: Medieval History P&S History > Medieval World > Medieval History Women of History

By James Waterson, Foreword by David Morgan
Frontline Books
Pages: 227
Illustrations: 16
ISBN: 9781526760821
Published: 22nd May 2019



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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 an enigmatic grand master who used assassination as part of a vast strategic vision that embraced Egypt, the Levant and Persia – even the court of the Mongol Khans in faraway Qaraqorum was not beyond the reach of his shadowy followers and their blades.

The Assassins often slayed their victims in public, 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.

Unsurprisingly, 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.

This is an excellent study of this infamous group, and helps to create a picture of the real historical Assassins to stand alongside the myths that made them famous.

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History of War

I came into this wanting to know more about the sect that I had come across in my own studies of the Crusades - those allegedly responsible for the murders of Raymond II of Tripoli and Conrad of Montferrat. I was not disappointed. Waterson presents us with a historically accurate and detailed account of the Ismaili Asaassins, from their earliest inception to their devastation at the hands of the Mongols, and all the complicated political and dynastic maneuvering in between. definitely one for the history shelf of my Library.

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Melisende's Library

The author does a fantastic job of explaining the complex history of this mysterious sect of people and bringing their world to the fore. I honestly could not put this book down and it really has made me hungry for more information on these mysterious, violent people and the mindset behind what they did.

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The Borgia Bull

The book itself has a really useful set of resources for those not familiar with this history, from a timeline of key events , to succession tables and maps.

This would be a great opportunity to build and play small level skirmishes or games. It is a fascinating read, and I will look at this some more... If you have any interest in clandestine military history, this book will be a revelation to you if you have not looked at this region of Medieval history.

This is a great overview of the period and a detailed look at this secret organisation.

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Medieval Sword School, Jason Hulott

A book that cuts through the myth and legend of the Assassins and the Crusaders, setting out a fascinating history that has shaped the world today. The Medieval conflict between Christians and Muslims has many similarities to the Middle East today and the use of terror – Much Recommended

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An inherently fascinating, deftly written, and impressively informative read from beginning to end.

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Midwest Book Review

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.

Read the full Instagram review here

Loki Lebowski via Instagram

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. He worked and taught in the United States and China for a number of years and now lives in Italy where he is writing a book he knows he will never finish on Bohemond of Taranto. The Knights of Islam was his first book on an historical subject.

About David Morgan

David grew up in the West Midlands at a time when there were still wild and messy pieces of countryside to explore. He has continued exploring nature for his whole life both professionally, as a research plant physiologist, and privately, as a keen botanist. He has grown a wildflower meadow in his garden for nearly 30 years and in retirement has taken up detailed investigation of this little piece of heaven. Instagram: @countrysketches

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