Saladin, David Nicolle

Saladin, David Nicolle

An Osprey leadership book looking at the famous but little understood 12th century Islamic leader Al-Malik al-Nasir Yusuf  Ibn Najim al-Din Ayyub Ibn Shahdi Abu’L-Muzaffar Salah A-Din  thankfully normally shortened to Saladin.

Often stereotypically portrayed as the noble foe of Richard the Lion Heart, more recently portrayed as a ruthless politician and rather average military commander this book takes a more middle of the road view, building a picture of a complex political and military leader who faced much more difficulty from domestic political and military threats than he did from Christian crusaders.

The book is short like most Ospreys but is well supported by other books by the same publisher and does a good job of delivering a brief overview of Saladin’s life, campaigns and achievements.  The events can be hard to follow at times as the political situation was complex and very fluid this can mean that the reader is left wondering at times who exactly Saladin is fighting for and against. 

Despite this the book is well written and well illustrated, making a lively and interesting read, the structure is clear  including a fascinating chapter examining what motivated Saladin and the relationship between his faith and his policy although I wonder how accurate this can be given the evidence and tendency to look at Islam through a modern western perspective.

The chapter ‘A life in words’ looks at Saladin through the differing perspectives of the Western and Islamic worlds at the time, giving a nice balance to the book. Generally the book is refreshingly balanced in its approach and certainly wets the appetite for more learning about this period.

The Early Years
The Military Life
The Hour of Destiny
Opposing Commanders
Inside the Mind
When War is Done
A Life in Words
Further Reading

Author: David Nicolle
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2011

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