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

Hardcover – published in the UK February 2016
I.B. Tauris, 224 pages, 2016, ISBN 978-1784534615
Published in Turkish translation, 2017, Everest

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.

Philip Mansel, our greatest authority on the civilisation of the Levant, has written a characteristically concise and elegant elegy to one of the oldest, grandest, and most cosmopolitan cities of the region. As tragic as it is timely, Mansel succeeds magnificently in showing why we should mourn the fall of Aleppo, a city which challenged categories and generalisations, and which was in many ways the last great Ottoman city to survive the twin ravages of modern nationalism and fundamentalism. - William Dalrymple

A compelling portrait of one of the Middle East s greatest cities, by one of the finest modern historians of the Levant. Mansel s Aleppo reminds modern readers of the loss to world heritage inflicted by Syria s tragic civil war. An important and outstanding book. - Eugene Rogan, author of The Arabs and The Fall of the Ottomans, Director of the Middle East Centre at St Antony's College, University of Oxford

Fascinating... a sheer delight to read. - Amir Taheri, Asharq Al-Aswat newspaper

A tragic lament, a prelude to Aleppo’s dark age... A labour of love and fluent scholarship... [Aleppo], named after the place where Abraham gave milk from his flocks as a charity to strangers, must be restored. This book helps to keep alive the colour of the souks, the clamour of the Khans and the songs of the cafes for that day. - Barnaby Rogerson, Country Life magazine

How did this once-celebrated city come to plumb such depths? It is a question Philip Mansel’s remarkable new history implicitly seeks to answer by setting out the reasons for Aleppo’s former greatness and its current torment. He goes about his business in a style at once accomplished, entertaining and idiosyncratic... Elegant and elegiac, Aleppo is a precious monument to a once-splendid city that has been reduced to abject ruin and misery. One can only hope that, like its neighbour Baghdad, a city that has become a byword for resilience, Aleppo rises from the ashes. - Justin Marozzi, Spectator magazine

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