Sunday, July 18, 2010

Book Review: Coptic Identity and Ayyubid Politics in Egypt (1218 -- 1250)

Al Ahram Weekly (Jill Kamil)

Coptic Identity and Ayyubid Politics in Egypt (1218 -- 1250)
Kurt J. Werthmuller
The American University in Cairo Press, Cairo and New York (2010)

The building blocks of history form a far more complex pattern than is generally realised. History is a record of what has happened as much as it is a narration of what is supposed to or thought to have happened. As such, it is selective. It relies on memory, choice, ethnic or religious bias. Some ideas gain legitimacy through repetition even when later scholarship proves them wrong. In every generation there are mythmakers, and the issue is further complicated in the 20th century by specialisation into separate disciplines. In Egypt, Greek settlements and early Christian structures are located at predominantly pharaonic sites; Christian churches are interspersed with mosques in mediaeval settlements; and mediaeval history itself embodies elements of Hellenistic, Christian, Persian and Jewish cultures. Also, there are eras that have been given short shrift by historians -- sometimes because of lack of primary source material at the time they were written, but more often because of the diversity of the source material and the languages used.


Gordon Napier said...

Does the book make much comment on the crusades? There were two full scale Catholic invasions of Egypt in the period in question (the Fifth and Seventh Crusades) and these must have had some consequences for Copts.

Andie said...

Hi Gordon. It is a very good question but I haven't read the book myself (the review was Jill Kamil's from Al Ahram Weekly) and my reading list is too long at the moment to add it to the pile :-). Perhaps someone else will be able to get back to you. Andie