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Anne-Marie Eddé

Translated by Jane Marie Todd

ISBN 9780674283978

Publication date: 05/12/2014

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Working simultaneously on two levels, Saladin represents the best kind of biography—a portrait of a man who is said to have made an age, and the most complete account we have to date of an age that made the man. Unlike biographies that focus on Saladin’s military exploits, especially the recapturing of Jerusalem from European Crusaders in 1187, Eddé’s narrative draws on an incredible array of contemporary sources to develop the fullest picture possible of a ruler shaped profoundly by the complex Arabian political environment in which he rose to prominence. The result is a unique view of the Crusades from an Arab perspective.

Saladin became a legend in his own time, venerated by friend and foe alike as a paragon of justice, chivalry, and generosity. Arab politicians ever since have sought to claim his mantle as a justification for their own exercise of power. But Saladin's world-historical status as the ideal Muslim ruler owes its longevity to a tacit agreement among contemporaries and later chroniclers about the set of virtues Saladin possessed—virtues that can now be tested against a rich tapestry of historical research. This tension between the mythical image of Saladin, layered over centuries and deployed in service of specific moral and political objectives, and the verifiable facts of his life available to a judicious modern historian is what sustains Anne-Marie Eddé's erudite biography, published to acclaim in France in 2008 and offered here in smooth, readable English translation.


  • Originally published in France in 2008, this splendid [book] will now have a wider international readership thanks to this fluent translation by Jane Marie Todd… [Saladin is] so filled with lively anecdote and a thoughtful, balanced analysis of the points at issue, as to be eminently readable for a wide audience… The book is a powerful reminder…of the full range of Saladin’s concerns across the Middle East. At times we are so drawn towards his epic struggle with the Christians that we lose sight of the Sultan’s need to engage in near-constant negotiation, bluff, warfare and propaganda with his co-religionists, processes that absorbed the majority of his time and energy. These matters are superbly well drawn out, but Eddé offers much more. There exists a wealth of evidence in the form of poetry, in medical, financial and military treatises, in religious and judicial material, and in architectural studies, that she has utilized to illuminate the more day-to-day aspects of his rule and the environment in which he operated… Anne-Marie Eddé has drawn a charismatic figure in a richly colored environment, to produce a refreshing, enjoyable and valuable book.

    —Jonathan Phillips, Times Literary Supplement


  • Anne-Marie Eddé is Director of Research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris, and was Professor of Medieval History at the University of Reims.

Book Details

  • 704 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Belknap Press