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The Middle East in the Middle Ages

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Francis Robinson examines two publications on the medieval Near East.

  • The Middle East in the Middle Ages: the Early Mamluk Sultanate 1250- 1382
    Robert Irwin – Croom Helm, 1986 - 180 pp. - £19.95
  • The Age of the Crusades: the Near East from the eleventh century to 1517
    P.M. Holt – Longman, 1986 - 250 pp. - hardback £15.95; paperback £7.95
Most westerners when asked to name the great powers of the Near East during the Middle Ages would probably settle for some of the following: the Crusaders, because western historiography has given them such high profile; the Mongols, because their savage achievement has burned itself into the western imagination; the Byzantines, because they were around so long; and perhaps the Ottomans, because their wide dominion may easily be misplaced by a century or so. It is unlikely that, outside the realm of professional scholarship, the Mamluks would figure high in many lists, in some they may not figure at all. Yet for over two centuries the Mamluks, Turkish slave-soldiers turned rulers of Egypt and Syria, were the Islamic great power of the region, seeing off the Mongols at Ain Jalut in 1261, clearing out the Crusaders in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and falling only to the Ottomans in 1517.

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