By Bettany Hughes
Istanbul has always been a place where stories and histories collide and crackle, where the idea is as potent as the historical fact. From the Qu'ran to Shakespeare, this city with three names - Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul - resonates as an idea and a place, and overspills its boundaries - real and imagined. Standing as the gateway between the East and West, it has served as the capital of the Roman, Byzantine, Latin and Ottoman Empires. For much of its history it was known simply as The City, but, as Bettany Hughes reveals, Istanbul is not just a city, but a story. In this epic new biography, Hughes takes us on a dazzling historical journey through the many incarnations of one of the world's greatest cities. As the longest-lived political entity in Europe, over the last 6,000 years Istanbul has absorbed a mosaic of micro-cities and cultures all gathering around the core. At the latest count archaeologists have measured forty-two human habitation layers. Phoenicians, Genoese, Venetians, Jews, Vikings, Azeris all called a patch of this earth their home. Based on meticulous research and new archaeological evidence, this captivating portrait of the momentous life of Istanbul is visceral, immediate and scholarly narrative history at its finest.
By Robert Twigger
'Robert Twigger is not so much a travel writer as a thrill-seeking philosopher' EsquireThe Himalayas beckon and we go ... Some to make real journeys and others to make imaginary ones. These mountains, home to Buddhists, Bonpos, Jains, Muslims, Hindus, shamans and animists, to name only a few, are a place of pilgrimage and dreams, revelation and war, massacre and invasion, but also peace and unutterable calm.In an exploration of the region's seismic history, Robert Twigger unravels some of these real and invented journeys and the unexpected links between them. Following a meandering path across the Himalayas to its physical end in Nagaland on the Indian-Burmese border, Twigger encounters incredible stories from a unique cast of mountaineers and mystics, pundits and prophets. The result is a sweeping, enthralling and surprising journey through the history of the world's greatest mountain range.
By Robert Twigger
A rip-roaring yet intimate biography of the mighty Nile by Robert Twigger, award-winning author of ANGRY WHITE PYJAMAS. 'A tour de force' FINANCIAL TIMES.So much begins on the banks of the Nile: all religion, all life, all stories, the script we write in, the language we speak, the gods, the legends and the names of stars. This mighty river that flows through a quarter of all Africa has been history's most sustained creator.In this dazzling, idiosyncratic journey from ancient times to the Arab Spring, award-winning author Robert Twigger weaves a Nile narrative like no other. As he navigates a meandering course through the history of the world's greatest river, he plucks the most intriguing, colourful and dramatic stories - truly a Nile red in tooth and claw.The result is both an epic journey through the whole sweep of human and pre-human history, and an intimate biography of the curious life of this great river, overflowing with stories of excess, love, passion, splendour and violence.
By Simon Sebag Montefiore
The epic story of Jerusalem told through the lives of the men and women who created, ruled and inhabited it.Jerusalem is the universal city, the capital of two peoples, the shrine of three faiths; it is the prize of empires, the site of Judgement Day and the battlefield of today's clash of civilizations. From King David to Barack Obama, from the birth of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to the Israel-Palestine conflict, this is the epic history of 3,000 years of faith, slaughter, fanaticism and coexistence. How did this small, remote town become the Holy City, the 'centre of the world' and now the key to peace in the Middle East? In a gripping narrative, Simon Sebag Montefiore reveals this ever-changing city in its many incarnations, bringing every epoch and character blazingly to life. Jerusalem's biography is told through the wars, love affairs and revelations of the men and women - kings, empresses, prophets, poets, saints, conquerors and whores - who created, destroyed, chronicled and believed in Jerusalem.Drawing on new archives, current scholarship, his own family papers and a lifetime's study, Montefiore illuminates the essence of sanctity and mysticism, identity and empire in a unique chronicle of the city that many believe will be the setting for the Apocalypse. This is how Jerusalem became Jerusalem, and the only city that exists twice - in heaven and on earth.
Alexander The Great And The Hellenistic Age
By Peter Green
A masterly narrative survey of three centuries, from Alexander's conquest and empire to the triumph of Rome.The book begins with the personality and achievements of Alexander the Great, and continues with the military and political violence of the successor-kingdoms that fought over his inheritance.This era saw many important developments: a shift from the oral to the written; a move from the public to the private and a new individualist ethos; a huge growth in slavery, and therefore a glut of slave-labour which destroyed the incentive to innovate; a growing gap between rich and poor; a growing taste for luxury.
The Mughal World
By Abraham Eraly
Inside the opulent, decadent world of the Mughal emperorsThe Mughal emperors were larger-than-life figures, men written on a supra-human scale who exercised absolute power. The three centuries of their rule, as laid out in Eraly's previous volume, THE MUGHAL THRONE, mark one of the most crucial and fascinating periods of Indian history. Here, he looks beyond the story of the empires rise and fall - an exotic growth that was transplanted to India from Islamic Persia - to bring the world of the Mughal ruler and Hindu subject vividly into focus. Blending contemporary sources and detailed description he introduces an India full of strangeness and contrast: of sacred harems and suttee rites, of brutal war and cultural and artistic refinement, of staggering opulence, deviant indulgences and abject poverty. From bizarre religious cults to the Mughal fondness for formal gardening, from murderous female bandits to the sex lives of the nobles, almost every angle of life is examined making this a comprehensive and absorbing introduction to India's last Golden Age.
Sands of Death
By Michael Asher
Desert explorer Michael Asher investigates the most disastrous exploration mission in the history of the SaharaIn December 1880 a French expedition attempted to map a route for a railway that would stretch from their colony in Algeria right across the Sahara desert to reach their territories in West Africa. 'Paris to Timbuctoo in Six Days' was the slogan. It would do for the French colonies what the American railways were doing in the western states at the same time. No native opposition was expected. As one of the expedition's organizers said, 'A hundred uncivilized tribesmen armed with old-fashioned spears: what is that against the might of France?' Four months later, a handful of emaciated survivors staggered into a remote outpost on the edge of the desert. Although armed with modern rifles, the column had been lured to destruction by the self-styled 'lords of the desert', the Tuareg. At this, the highpoint of European colonialism in Africa, this story of treachery, massacre, torture and even cannibalism made headlines around the world. Attacked by the Tuareg in their remote heartland, the survivors had been pursued for weeks on end, driven into the waterless desert to die. The desperate lengths they resorted to shocked Victorian sensibilities. They do not make easy reading now. This grisly story, told by our greatest living desert explorer reveals what happened when the conceit of western colonialism met the equally arrogant Tuareg, who had dominated this remote region, and anyone trying to cross it, for a thousand years.
By Mark Nicol
The British BLACKHAWK DOWN: How a patrol from the Parachute Regiment fought its way to safety while six British military policemen were massacred.In 24 June 2003, six British military policemen were killed in the most horrific circumstances in Iraq. At the same time, and in the same town, a small patrol of the Parachute Regiment shot its way out of an Iraqi ambush. Mark Nicol investigates the controversial deaths of the Military Policemen, drawing on their own diaries and letters home, as well as eyewitness testimony from their Iraqi Police interpreters. At the same time, he tells the incredible story of how a hopelessly outnumbered patrol of Paras managed to escape the fury of the mob. The Paras were ready to die, fighting, in the best traditions of the maroon berets. Their lives were ultimately saved by Private Freddy Ellis, whose bravery under fire moved his commander on the ground to recommend he be decorated. Sergeant Gordon Robertson was awarded a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for his leadership during the contact.This was the British BLACKHAWK DOWN. Mark Nicol has travelled back to Iraq to produce the first and only coherent account of the bloodiest day of the British experience in Iraq.
From Babel to Dragomans
By Bernard Lewis
A collection of the most important essays on past and current history by the Western world's foremost Islamic scholarBernard Lewis has charted the great centuries of Islamic power and civilisation but also, in his recent books WHAT WENT WRONG? and THE CRISIS OF ISLAM, Islam's calamitous and bitter decline. This book collects together his most interesting and significant essays, papers, reviews and lectures. They range from historical subjects such as religion and politics in Islam and Judaism, the culture and people of Iran, the great mosques of Istanbul, Middle Eastern food and feasts, the Mughals and the Ottomans, the rise and fall of British power in the Middle East and North Africa, Islam and racism - to current history such as the significance of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. Includes discussion of the problems of Western historians dealing with the Islamic world.
The Crisis of Islam
By Bernard Lewis
The great scholar of Islam directly confronts the events of September 11th and the reasons behind Islamic terrorism in the modern world - a Sunday Times bestseller.President Bush has made it clear that we are engaged in a war against terrorism. But for Osama bin Laden and his followers this is religious war, a war for Islam against infidels, especially the United States, the greatest power in the world of the infidels. In this book Bernard Lewis shows us where the anger and frustration have come from, and the extent to which almost the entire Muslim world is affected by poverty and tyranny.He looks at the influence of extreme Wahhabist doctrines in the Saudi kingdom, where custodianship of Islam's holy places and the revenues of oil have given worldwide impact to what would otherwise have been an extremist fringe in a marginal country. He looks at American double standards, which have long caused Muslim anger, and tells us the real meaning of `Islamic fundamentalism', `jihad' and `fatwa', and why the peoples of the Middle East are conscious of history in a way most Americans find difficult to understand.
By Karen Armstrong
Buddhism is a faith that commands over 100 million followers throughout the world. Buddha stands with Christ, Confucius and Mohammed as someone who revolutionized the religious ideas of his time to advocate a new way of living. All that is known about Buddha comes from a collection of ancient writings that fuse history, biography and myth. Karen Armstrong distils from these the key events of Buddha's life: his birth as Siddhartha Gotama in the fifth century BC and his abandonment of his wife and son; his attainment of enlightenment under the Banyan tree (the moment he became a buddha, or enlightened one; his political influence; the divisions among his followers; and his serene death. Armstrong also introduces the key tenets of Buddhism: she explains the doctrine of anatta (no-soul) and the concepts of kamma (actions), samsara (keeping going), dhamma (a law or teaching that reflects the fundamental principles of existence) and the idealised state of nibbana (literally the 'cooling of the ego'). Since it promotes no personal god, Buddhism, writes Armstrong, 'is essentially a psychological faith'. In our own age of secular anxiety, she shows that it has profound lessons to teach about selflessness and the simple life. Karen Armstrong's short book is a magnificent introduction to the life and thought of this most influential of spiritual thinkers.
The Multiple Identities Of The Middle East
By Bernard Lewis
Most of the modern states of the Middle East are of recent origin, yet the region is the birthplace of three religions and many civilizations. Bernard Lewis, one of the world's most respected historians of the Middle East, discusses the countries and frontiers; their religions and communities; language and loyalties to place, and Middle Eastern perceptions of outsiders. He also considers the effect of alien ideas and influences including liberalism, nationalism, fascism, socialism and democracy.