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Why would a hardened band of foreign jihādi warriors agree to work for a self-proclaimed leader of the Christian world – especially one militantly opposed to Islam, who kept his own Muslim citizens under close surveillance? And why would such a ruler choose to keep that particular type of professional killer in his personal employ?
There are two approaches to writing a significant history book. One is ‘going big’ and covering the broadest range of historical phenomena within a large geographical space during a wide time span. This approach makes use of vast and variegated historical bibliographies and well-selected primary sources.
In the West, it can be easy to forget just how closely China and the USSR were once bound in political imaginations. Today, the USSR is a land to which there is no return: a figment of past dreams and nightmares – whereas China is on everyone’s mind, a growing economic power that has shed its socialist past to move to the forefront of the new capitalist order.
Rewriting Magic is an unusual monograph both in its style and in its content. It is the latest publication in the Magic in History series by Penn State University Press. The Press started issuing this series more than two decades ago, and it has become by now a flourishing and exciting enterprise with nearly 20 titles including monographs, text editions and collections of essays.
Eli Rubin has written a wonderful book that does not just tell a fascinating story about an important but much neglected subject, but also manages to link this story to much broader historiographical, and indeed ontological, questions about the intersections between space, on one hand, and power, time and lived experience on the other.
This book deals with the history of the city of Ravenna, near Italy’s north eastern coast, in the period between the fifth and the 11th centuries AD. It comprises an excellent introduction by the editors and 15 chapters of varying lengths. It is well illustrated and has a very useful index, not always the case with edited volumes.
Algeria was colonised and departmentalised by the French in the 19th century, and by 1954 around a million Algerians of European origin lived in the settler colony. Following a seven-and-a-half-year war against France, Algeria officially became independent in 1962.
One of the most memorable and unsettling works of historical fiction to appear in the last 15 years is Louis de Bernières’ Birds without Wings, which tells the stories of the inhabitants of Eskibahçe, a fictional village in the Ottoman Empire, in the years before, during and after the First World War.
The World of the Salons is an ambitious book. It shoots loads of ammunition and promises much. An abridged version of Le Monde des salons: Sociabilité et mondanité à Paris au 18e siècle (Fayard 2005), this English translation includes the substantive material of the original book, minus the suavity of the original French prose.
Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650–1750 (Oxford, 2001); Enlightenment Contested: Philosophy, Modernity and the Emancipation of Man 1670–1752 (Oxford, 2006); Democratic Enlightenment: Philosophy, Revolution and Human Rights 1750–1790 (Oxford, 2011); Revolutionary Ideas: an Intellectual History of the French Revolution from the Rights