Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria's Great Merchant City

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9781784534615: Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria's Great Merchant City
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A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year, 2016

Today, Aleppo lies in ruins. Its streets are plunged in darkness; most of its population has fled. Google Earth shows no lights at night. But Aleppo was once a vibrant world city, a trade and cultural hub at the end of the Silk Road, famous for its food and music, and a place where Muslims, Christians, Jews, and visitors from around the world lived and traded together in peace. In this heartbreaking and powerful history of one of the world’s oldest, continuously-inhabited cities, author Philip Mansel chronicles the many lives of Aleppo, successively ruled by the Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Ottoman, and French empires. In Part I of the book, Mansel details the city’s lives over the centuries, including her rise under the Ottomans, when Aleppo became that empire's third largest city, after Constantinople and Cairo. In Part II, Mansel has assembled 15 historical accounts of Aleppo, many of them never published before, ranging from the early 1600s to 1920. Written by British and French merchants, consuls, and archeologists, these accounts chronicle more than four centuries of life in the city, with each entry filled with details noting the physical beauty of the place – her orchards and terraced gardens, her country houses and famous walls, her ancient Roman dwellings still used by the locals, her places of worship, and more. Included in the accounts are Alexander Russell’s famed natural history from 1756, and a reproduction of Baedeker’s map from 1912, at the height of the city’s Ottoman period and before World War I would change the region forever.

With more than 250 notes and an extensive bibliography of related titles published in both English and French, Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s Great Merchant City is a remarkable piece of scholarship, but also a tragic reminder that even in the 21st Century, humanity can witness the loss of a great city, a traditional pinnacle of cultural and economic power, and a place of beauty.

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From the Author:

Author Interview with Baker & Taylor Publisher Services:

Thank you for joining us. We have to be honest – while your book is an incredible history of the city of Aleppo, it's also one of the most heartbreaking books we've ever read, given what's happened to Aleppo. What was that like, writing on deadline about a world-
class treasure being destroyed in front of our eyes?

Philip Mansel: The war made me more determined, as the city was being bombed, to record as well as I could, its people and monuments, to write down people's memories of a more peaceful and tolerant Aleppo. It made the books I read on, for example, the 17th century seem more relevant. I am a believer in the necessity not to succumb to the "vanity of the present," or "the condescension of posterity," not to believe that the 21st century has seen universal improvement. Aleppo is proof it has not.

All of the primary source accounts in Part II of the book detail the physical beauty of the city of Aleppo over the centuries, and the cultural beauty, too. Can you tell us about how you picked these accounts for the book?

Philip Mansel: I wanted to give as wide a range as possible, from Leonhard Rauwolff in the 16th century to Leonard Woolley in the 20th.

We loved how the book details the commerce and the culture of the city over the centuries. There were mostly peaceful times, but there were "cleansing" and "purges," too―but nothing on the level of what's happened in the last decade. What's different this time around?

Philip Mansel: This time you have the crises dividing the entire Muslim world, from Morocco to Malaya―ideological, religious, generational, political, more severe than in the past; the catastrophe of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which helped produce ISIL; interference and funding of insurgents from Gulf states; the immobilism of the Assad regime; and desertification and impoverishment of the countryside: an explosive cocktail.

You've written extensively about the Middle East and the Levant. When was the last time you were in Aleppo? Are you in touch with anyone there?

Philip Mansel: I was last in Aleppo in 2004, for a conference. It appeared peaceful and to be preparing for a tourist boom. Buildings were being restored. The cafes were livelier. I am in touch with friends from Aleppo who are outside it, and hear the latest news through other friends. Always contradictory, depending on the point of view.

What do you think you'll miss the most about Aleppo? Is there any chance the city can come back? Has it before?

Philip Mansel: I will miss the markets, the explosion of sounds and smells and experiences which it contained; the old houses; the mixtures of Christian and Muslim. It came back after the devastations by Hulagu, the mongol conqueror in 1260 and by Timur Lenk in 1400; but this civil war has lasted four years; I wonder if trust between inhabitants and pride in the city will return. I wonder if people who have left the city will want their children to grow up there. The regime has not changed. Syria has bad relations with trading partners in Iraq and Turkey.

(2018-03-01)

About the Author:

Philip Mansel is a historian of France and the Middle East. He has lived in Paris, Beirut and Istanbul, and often visited Aleppo. In 2012 he won the London Library Life in Literature Award, and in 2013 became a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. His most recent publication is The Eagle in Splendour: Inside the Court of Napoleon (2015). Aleppo: The Rise and Fall of Syria’s Great Merchant City is his third book on cosmopolitan cities of the Middle East, after Constantinople: City of the World's Desire (1995), on Istanbul, and Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean (2010), on Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut.

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Book Description I.B.Tauris Co. Ltd., United Kingdom, 2016. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Every time gardens welcomed us, we said to them,Aleppo is our aim and you are merely the route. Al-Mutanabbi Aleppo lies in ruins. Its streets are plunged in darkness, most of its population has fled. But this was once a vibrant world city, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived and traded together in peace. Few places are as ancient and diverse as Aleppo - one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world - successively ruled by the Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Ottoman and French empires. Under the Ottomans, it became the empire s third largest city, after Constantinople and Cairo. It owed its wealth to its position at the end of the Silk Road, at a crossroads of world trade, where merchants from Venice, Isfahan and Agra gathered in the largest suq in the Middle East. Throughout the region, it was famous for its food and its music. For 400 years British and French consuls and merchants lived in Aleppo; many of their accounts are used here for the first time. In the first history of Aleppo in English, Dr Philip Mansel vividly describes its decline from a pinnacle of cultural and economic power, a poignant testament to a city shattered by Syria s civil war. Seller Inventory # AAZ9781784534615

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Book Description I.B.Tauris Co. Ltd., United Kingdom, 2016. Hardback. Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Every time gardens welcomed us, we said to them,Aleppo is our aim and you are merely the route. Al-Mutanabbi Aleppo lies in ruins. Its streets are plunged in darkness, most of its population has fled. But this was once a vibrant world city, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived and traded together in peace. Few places are as ancient and diverse as Aleppo - one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world - successively ruled by the Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Arab, Ottoman and French empires. Under the Ottomans, it became the empire s third largest city, after Constantinople and Cairo. It owed its wealth to its position at the end of the Silk Road, at a crossroads of world trade, where merchants from Venice, Isfahan and Agra gathered in the largest suq in the Middle East. Throughout the region, it was famous for its food and its music. For 400 years British and French consuls and merchants lived in Aleppo; many of their accounts are used here for the first time. In the first history of Aleppo in English, Dr Philip Mansel vividly describes its decline from a pinnacle of cultural and economic power, a poignant testament to a city shattered by Syria s civil war. Seller Inventory # AAZ9781784534615

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