A Comparative Review of "Arab Historians of the Crusades", by Francesco Gabrieli (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969), xxxvi, 362; and "The Crusades Through Arab Eyes", by Amin Maalouf (New York: Schocken Books, 1985), xvi, 293. Review by Dr. Paul-Thomas Ferguson. In this review, Dr. Ferguson compares and contrasts the focus and approach of these two works in order to provide students and scholars with an understanding of their relative value.
There have been countless histories written about the Crusades. For the most part these works have been based upon European sources. What Francesco Gabrieli and Amin Maalouf offer in their respective books is the view from "the other side" (Gabrieli, xi), "based almost exclusively on the testimony of Arab historians and chroniclers" (Maalouf, xi). Each author presents the Arabic view eloquently. Their works are accessible, understandable and highly useful. Although Gabrieli and Maalouf appear to have the same goal in mind, they present their information in two very different ways.
Gabrieli begins with short biographies of the major Arab historians: Ibn al-Qalanisi, Ibn al-Athir, Baha ad-Din, and many others. In these biographies, the author relates the history of each man and the significance of the sources in question. Once the reader knows the backgrounds of these sources, Gabrieli presents a chronological collection of selected original source material. This material is divided into three major sections: "From Godfrey to Saladin", "Saladin and the Third Crusade", and "The Ayyubids and the Invasion of Egypt". These chronological sections are divided into several chapters each and include dozens of examples of translated source materials. Gabrieli does not interfere with or seek to interpret these sources. Each chapter begins with a short description of the topic covered in that chapter and further explains why the cited sources were chosen. The reader is then allowed to draw his or her own conclusions.
Maalouf likewise presents the Arab view of the Crusades, though the period he covers starts earlier and ends later than that covered by Gabrieli. However, ...
Accounts of the Crusades are compared and assessed.