Dec 5, 2015

Possible Books: North African History From Carthage to the Norrmans

Interest has been shown in reading about the history of North Africa. Here are some possible selections:

General History of the Region

North Africa, Revised Edition: A History from Antiquity to the Present by Phillip C. Naylor (Revised Edition). 2015, 3.8 stars on Amazon (5 reviews)/no Goodread reviews, 412 pages. This document includes a review of the book from H-Africa.
North Africa has been a vital crossroads throughout history, serving as a connection between Africa, Asia, and Europe. Paradoxically, however, the region's historical significance has been chronically underestimated. In a book that may lead scholars to reimagine the concept of Western civilization, incorporating the role North African peoples played in shaping "the West," Phillip Naylor describes a locale whose transcultural heritage serves as a crucial hinge, politically, economically, and socially. 
Ideal for novices and specialists alike, North Africa begins with an acknowledgment that defining this area has presented challenges throughout history. Naylor's survey encompasses the Paleolithic period and early Egyptian cultures, leading readers through the pharonic dynasties, the conflicts with Rome and Carthage, the rise of Islam, the growth of the Ottoman Empire, European incursions, and the postcolonial prospects for Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Western Sahara...... 
Now with a new afterword that surveys the "North African Spring" uprisings that roiled the region from 2011 to 2013, this is the most comprehensive history of North Africa to date, with accessible, in-depth chapters covering the pre-Islamic period through colonization and independence.
Classical Period

Carthage Must Be Destroyed: The Rise and Fall of an Ancient Civilization by Richard Miles. 2012, 4.3 stars on Amazon (101 reviews)/3.84 stars on GoodReads (1563 ratings), 554 pages (373 of text). Here is a review of the book in The Guardian. Here is a video summary of the book,
The first full-scale history of Hannibal's Carthage in decades and "a convincing and enthralling narrative." (The Economist ) 
Drawing on a wealth of new research, archaeologist, historian, and master storyteller Richard Miles resurrects the civilization that ancient Rome struggled so mightily to expunge. This monumental work charts the entirety of Carthage's history, from its origins among the Phoenician settlements of Lebanon to its apotheosis as a Mediterranean empire whose epic land-and-sea clash with Rome made a legend of Hannibal and shaped the course of Western history. Carthage Must Be Destroyed reintroduces readers to the ancient glory of a lost people and their generations-long struggle against an implacable enemy.
The Vandals by Andrew Merrills and Richard Miles. 2014. 3.8 stars (4 Amazon reviews)/3.78 stars (9 Goodreads ratings), 368 pages. Here is a short history of the Vandals in North Africa and their sack of Rome, mentioning this book.
The Vandals is the first book available in the English Language dedicated to exploring the sudden rise and dramatic fall of this complex North African Kingdom. This complete history provides a full account of the Vandals and re-evaluates key aspects of the society including: * Political and economic structures such as the complex foreign policy which combined diplomatic alliances and marriages with brutal raiding * The extraordinary cultural development of secular learning, and the religious struggles that threatened to tear the state apart * The nature of Vandal identity from a social and gender perspective.
A History of the Vandals by Torsten Cumberland Jacobsen. Not available in paperback, hardback listed at $22.76 on Amazon. 2012, 3.6 stars (7 Amazon reviews)/3,94 stars (16 Goodreads ratings), 360 pages. Here is a review of the book.
(T)he Vandals.....over a period of six hundred years had migrated from the woodland regions of Scandinavia across Europe and ended in the deserts of North Africa. In A History of the Vandals, the first general account in English covering the entire story of the Vandals from their emergence to the end of their kingdom, historian Torsten Cumberland Jacobsen pieces together what we know about the Vandals, sifting fact from fiction. In the middle of the fifth century the Vandals, who professed Arianism, a form of Christianity considered heretical by the Roman emperor, created the first permanent Germanic successor state in the West and were one of the deciding factors in the downfall of the Western Roman Empire. Later Christian historians described their sack of Rome in 455 and their vehement persecution of Catholics in their kingdom, accounts that were sensationalized and gave birth to the term “vandalism.” 
In the mid-sixth century, the Vandals and their North African kingdom were the first target of Byzantine Emperor Justinian’s ambitious plan to reconquer the lost territories of the fallen Western Empire. In less than four months, what had been considered one of the strongest Germanic kingdoms had been defeated by a small Roman army led by the general Belisarius. Despite later rebellions, this was the end of the Germanic presence in North Africa, and in many ways the end of the Arian heresy of Christianity. For the Romans it was the incredibly successful start of the reconquest of the lost lands of the Western Empire.
Terry Jones' Barbarians: An Alternative Roman History by Terry Jones. 2007, 4 stars (35 Amazon reviews)/3.93 stars (464 Goodreads ratings), 320 pages. Here is a video with materials from Jones TV on the Goths.
A completely fresh approach to Roman history, this book not only offer readers the chance to see the Romans from a non-Roman perspective, it also reveals that most of those written off by the Romans as uncivilized, savage, and barbaric were in fact organized, motivated, and intelligent groups of people with no intentions of overthrowing Rome and plundering its Empire. This fascinating study does away with the propaganda and opens our eyes to who really established the civilized world. Delving deep into history, Terry Jones and Alan Ereira uncover the impressive cultural and technological achievements of the Celts, Goths, Persians, and Vandals. In this new paperback edition, Terry and Alan travel through 700 years of history on three continents, bringing wit, irreverence, passion, and the very latest scholarship to transform our view of the legacy of the Roman Empire and the creation of the modern world.
Augustine's World (354 - 430)

The Confessions (Everyman's Library) by St. Augustine, Robin Lane Fox and Philip Burton. 2001. Not available in paperback, hardback listed at $11.70 on Amazon. This edition 2001, 4.3 stars (Amazon, 398 reviews)/3.85 stars (Goodreads, 26,354 ratings).
Augustine's fourth-century spiritual autobiography not only is a major document in the history of Christianity, a classic of Roman Africa, and the unchallenged model through the ages for the autobiographical record of the journey to self-knowledge, it also marks a vital moment in the history of Western culture. 
As Augustine explains how, when, and why he became the man he is, he probes the great themes that others were to explore after himCfaith, time, truth, identity, and self-understanding--with a richness of detail unmatched in ancient literature. Dense with vivid portrayals of friends, family, colleagues, and enemies, The Confessions chronicles the passage from a life of sensuality and superstition to a genuine spiritual awakening--in a powerful narrative of one man's inner education that continues to shape the way we think and act today.
Augustine: Conversions to Confessions by Robin Lane Fox. 2015, Unrated; 688 pages total (564 pages of text); Only available in hardback and Kindle, $23.37. Reviewed in The Economist, November 28th, 2015.
Saint Augustine is one of the most influential figures in all of Christianity, yet his path to sainthood was by no means assured. Born in AD 354 to a pagan father and a Christian mother, Augustine spent the first thirty years of his life struggling to understand the nature of God and his world. He learned about Christianity as a child but was never baptized, choosing instead to immerse himself in the study of rhetoric, Manicheanism, and then Neoplatonism—all the while indulging in a life of lust and greed. 
In Augustine, the acclaimed historian Robin Lane Fox re-creates Augustine’s early life with unparalleled insight, showing how Augustine’s quest for knowledge and faith finally brought him to Christianity and a life of celibacy. Augustine’s Confessions, a vivid description of his journey toward conversion and baptism, still serves as a model of spirituality for Christians around the world. 
Magisterial and beautifully written, Augustine will be the definitive biography of this colossal figure for decades to come.
The Byzantines

Belisarius: The Last Roman General by Ian Hughes. 2014. 288 pages, 3.8 stars.
A military history of the campaigns of Belisarius, the greatest general of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Emperor Justinian. He twice defeated the Persians and reconquered North Africa from the Vandals in a single year at the age of 29, before going on to regain Spain and Italy, including Rome (briefly), from the barbarians. It discusses the evolution from classical Roman to Byzantine armies and systems of warfare, as well as those of their chief enemies, the Persians, Goths and Vandals. It reassesses Belisarius’ generalship and compares him with the likes of Caesar, Alexander and Hannibal. It will be illustrated with line drawings and battle plans as well as photographs.
The Secret History by Procopius (c. 500-565). This Penguin Classics edition 2007. 176 pages, 4.3 stars from 35 Amazon reviews.
A trusted member of the Byzantine establishment, Procopius was the Empire's official chronicler, and his History of the Wars of Justinian proclaimed the strength and wisdom of the Emperor's reign. Yet all the while the dutiful scribe was working on a very different—and dangerous—history to be published only once its author was safely in his grave. The Secret History portrays the 'great lawgiver' Justinian as a rampant king of corruption and tyranny, the Empress Theodora as a sorceress and whore, and the brilliant general Belisarius as the pliable dupe of his scheming wife Antonina. Magnificently hyperbolic and highly opinionated, The Secret History is a work of explosive energy, depicting holy Byzantium as a hell of murder and misrule. 
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
The Muslim Conquest

The Arab Conquest of Egypt - And the Last Thirty Years of the Roman Dominion by Alfred J. Butler. This is an classic book (the author died in 1936) in a 2013 edition. 614 pages, 4.15 stars (Goodreads, 66 ratings)
Unlike some other reproductions of classic texts (1) We have not used OCR(Optical Character Recognition), as this leads to bad quality books with introduced typos. (2) In books where there are images such as portraits, maps, sketches etc We have endeavoured to keep the quality of these images, so they represent accurately the original artefact. Although occasionally there may be certain imperfections with these old texts, we feel they deserve to be made available for future generations to enjoy.
Muslim Expansion and Byzantine Collapse in North Africa by Walter E. Kaegi. 2015, 366 pages, unrated, $31.99 paperback.
Who 'lost' Christian North Africa? Who won it and how? Walter Kaegi takes a fresh look at these perennial questions, with maps and on-site observations, in this exciting new book. Persisting clouds of suspicion and blame overshadowed many Byzantine attempts to defend North Africa, as Byzantines failed to meet the multiple challenges from different directions which ultimately overwhelmed them. While the Muslims forcefully and permanently turned Byzantine internal dynastic and religious problems and military unrest to their advantage, they brought their own strengths to a dynamic process that would take a long time to complete - the transformation of North Africa. An impartial comparative framework helps to sort through identity politics, 'Orientalism' charges and counter-charges, and institutional controversies; this book also includes a new study of the decisive battle of Sbeitla in 647, helping readers to understand what befell Byzantium, and indeed empires from Rome to the present.
Sicily (These two books were published in a two volume set, with 4.31 stars (Goodreads, 190 ratings).

The Normans in the South, 1016–1130 (The Normans in Sicily) by John Julius Norwich. 2011. 388 pages, $29.75 paperback.
This book is about the 'other' Norman Conquest. It is the story of Robert Guiscard, perhaps the most extraordinary European adventurer between Caesar and Napoleon. In one year, 1084, he had both the Eastern and Western Emperors retreating before him and one of the most formidable of medieval Popes in his power. It is also the story of his brother Roger, thanks to whom he conquered Sicily from the Saracens; and of Roger's descendants, notably his son Roger II, who converted his father's achievement into a cosmopolitan and cultivated kingdom whose surviving monuments still dazzle us today. The Normans in the South is the first of two volumes that recount the dazzling story of the Norman Kingdom of Sicily. "Diligence, narrative skill, and a scholarship fired by enthusiasm". (Lord Kinross, Sunday Telegraph). "I found the book very enjoyable indeed. It is beautifully written". (Nancy Mitford).
The Kingdom in the Sun, 1130–1194 (The Normans in Sicily) by John Julius Norwich. 2011. 474 pages, $29.75 paperback.
There were two Norman Conquests. John Julius Norwich is the consummate historian of the 'other' one: the conquest of Sicily. When on Christmas Day 1130 Roger de Hauteville was crowned first King of Sicily, the island entered a golden age. Norman and Italian, Greek and Arab, Lombard, Englishman and Jew all contributed to a culture that was as brilliant as it was cosmopolitan; and to an atmosphere of racial and religious toleration unparalleled in Europe. But sixty-four years later, to the day, the sun set on the Sicilian Kingdom. In this second volume of his history ( The Normans in the South 1016-1130 is also in Faber Finds) Norwich describes the reigns of the grotesquely misnamed William the Bad and the Good and the bastard Tancred. We read, too, of St Bernard, magnetic but insufferable; of Adrian IV, the only English Pope; of Richard the Lionheart (behaving abominably in Messina); and other notables. This scintillating narrative history is also a superb traveller's guide, listing every Norman building extant on Sicily.

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