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Book Review - Armies of God - Islam and Empire on the Nile, 1869-1899

By: Dominic Green (442/35706)
Publisher : Century ISBN: 978-1-844-13883-8

This is the story of what happened when a liberal-minded Prime Minister was caught between two sets of fundamentalists, one Islamic, the other Christian. It could be a tale of out time> But this is actually the story of Islam and the Empire on the Nile c. 1869, A project wide in its ambition and meticulous in its detail, from the critically-acclaimed author of The Double Life of Doctor Lopez.

In the late nineteenth century, the river Nile became the setting for the first major encounter between the West and Islam in the modern era. In an extraordinary collision between Europeans, Arabs and Africans, three empires rose in the space of thirty years. In the climax of this drama, played out in a remote part of the Sudan, we see the rise of the British Empire to its most glorious heights, but also the seeds of its fall.

The personalities are legends: William Gladstone, General Gordon, Winston Churchill and General Kitchener. Yet this is a story also told through the eyes of the outsiders - a missionary, a slave trader, a palace clerk and an ordinary soldier.

Using never-before transcribed material from newly-translated government papers in Cairo and Khartoum, Green tells both sides of the story, reassessing familiar characters and discovering new perspectives on both the Arab and African sides. The result is a breathtaking narrative, with an extraordinarily lifelike quality, whose recurring characters and themes carry a wide sweep of time and events, and tells the story of a time when good intentions became compromised, finally giving way to realpolitik, and how, on such changes of attitude, empires rise and fall

October 2007

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