Book Reviews

Book Review: The Caliph’s Splendor


B. Bobrick Ph.D., is the author of 14 books, many of which have been translated into eight languages.

This book reveals how a civilization (now barely known in the west) influenced European culture from the eight to the 15th century.

When London was a small city with a population of few thousand souls, Baghdad was thriving with over 800,000 and was the centre of trade between east and west.

Harun al-Rashid, the founder of Baghdad, was a savvy caliph who dressed as an ordinary citizen and chatted with local folk to find out how they lived, their daily complaints, and what they thought of government officials.

He negotiated intricate alliances with Spain France, North African rulers, Rome, and Byzantium, all of which were, at the time, forces to be reckoned with.

This extremely well researched book reveals how the schism between Shiites and Sunnis started, then developed into the situation we know today.

The author tells us how culturally advanced the east was compared to the west, and how Muslim rulers employed educated Jews, Christians, and adherents of other eastern orthodox religions to advance their architecture, governing style, finances, strategic alliances, and campaigns to acquire more land in an attempt to grow their jurisdiction and economy.

Harun-al Rashid and his successors’ politics are revealing, shocking, bloody, and reckless. Most are similar to the tactics used by politicians today, save for the blood and savagery.

The author also explores the history of Byzantium, Armenia, Persia, as well as those of Berber tribes of Northern Africa, and Muslim governed Spain.

When Arabs ruled much of what is Spain now, the country prospered, agricultural output grew, new fruits and vegetables were introduced.

Muslin rulers of the time enjoyed wine and regularly drank, ate well, and enjoyed the company of females.

The writing is clear, concise, fascinating for people interested in history and know enough to appreciate details that are presented in the pages of this valuable book.

An awesome read.

Highly recommended.

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