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In The Shadow Of The Sword

On sale

5th April 2012

Price: £14.99

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Selected: ebook / ISBN-13: 9780748119516

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‘A stunning blockbuster’ Robert Fisk

‘A brilliant tour de force of revisionist scholarship and thrilling storytelling’ Simon Sebag Montefiore

‘A compelling detective story of the highest order’ Sunday Times

‘Tom Holland has an enviable gift for summoning up the colour, the individuals and animation of the past’ Independent

In the 6th century AD, the Near East was divided between two venerable empires: the Persian and the Roman. A hundred years on and one had vanished forever, while the other seemed almost finished. Ruling in their place were the Arabs: an upheaval so profound that it spelt, in effect, the end of the ancient world. In the Shadow of the Sword explores how this came about. Spanning from Constantinople to the Arabian desert, and starring some of the most remarkable rulers who ever lived, he tells a story vivid with drama, horror, and startling achievement.


Professor Sir Fergus Millar
Sweeping and perceptive. His major achievement is to set out just how uncertain is our grasp on the immediate setting of Muhammad's life, and on the formation of the Koran. At this moment in world history above all, it should be required reading
Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times
Holland leaves almost no aspect of the traditional story of Islam intact as he charts its rise to global power from the ashes of the Roman and Persian empires
Anthony Sattin, Observer
Holland is a restless wanderer across the ancient world, both geographically and intellectually... A dazzling range of characters... Holland is a skilful and energetic narrator, and while he guides us along the more intricate twists and turns of the period, he also keeps our eyes on the bigger story
Michael Scott, Sunday Telegraph
A handsome volume, tackling an important question from a novel perspective, backed by useful notes and written in an accessible and fluid style
David Frum, Daily Beast
Those unwilling to struggle through academic texts have long needed a guide to the story of Islam as it's understood by those with the fullest access to the latest linguistic and archaeological evidence. Now at last in Tom Holland's In the Shadow of the Sword, they finally have it
Malise Ruthven, Wall Street Journal
Elegantly written and refreshingly free from specialist jargon... marshalling its resources with dexterity, it is a veritable tour de force
Richard Miles, Financial Times
It is difficult not to be bedazzled by a cast that includes ulcerated Christian holy men, Zoroastrian priests obsessed with dental hygiene, demonic emperors, barbarians with self-inflicted cranial deformities and Arab ambassadors stinking of camel
Thomas Ashbridge, Literary Review
A brave and valuable attempt to train the lens of popular history upon an exceptionally contentious field of study... elegant and entertaining... In the Shadow of the Sword stands as a useful, and sometimes provocative, starting point for anyone interested in approaching the birth of Islam from a historical, rather than devotional, perspective
Dan Jones, Daily Telegraph
Holland's new book traces the process by which the world of the first millennium came to be dominated by one God, three religions and an innumerable succession of emperors
Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph
A work of history, trying to tell the truth, as modern historians understand that fraught concept... A gripping, colourful book