Gouvernance et liberalites de Saladin: D'apres les donnees inedites de six documents arabes. Edited by JEAN-MICHEL MOUTON; DOMINIQUE SOURDEL; and JANINE SOURDEL-THOMINE. Documents relatifs a l'histoire des croisades, vol. 22. Paris: ACADEMIE DES INSCRIPTIONS ET BELLES-LETTRES, 2015. Pp. 148. [euro]30 (paper).
Do not let the slender appearance of this book put you off; in it the authors have gathered together six valuable manuscripts from the reign of Saladin (564-589/1169-1193), which they have reproduced, edited, translated, and analyzed. They have chosen manuscripts that provide information about Saladin's activities as a statesman and politician, consciously aiming to provide a counterweight to the preponderance of scholarship that examines his activities as a conqueror and counter-crusader. As a result, this volume follows a developing trend, in that a number of scholars have sought recently to provide studies of the sultan's life and career that consider him in a wider sense (most notably Anne-Marie Edde's masterful Saladin, published in French in 2008 and in English in 2011; see my review in JAOS 134.1). What makes Gouvernance el liberalites de Saladin a very important addition to this body of scholarship is the authors' direct demonstration of the ways in which original manuscripts of letters, court documents, certificates, and other day-to-day records can support and supplement analyses based on the more commonly used chronicles, biographies, and the like.
All six of the manuscripts examined in this book are drawn from the collection known as the "Damascus Papers," which were originally preserved in a storage room in the Umayyad Great Mosque in that city and then moved to the Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum in Istanbul after their discovery in 1893. Only Document 4 was previously published, but the authors have taken the opportunity to republish it with newly discovered information. The volume itself is one of a number of works published by the authors in recent years that address documents from the Damascus Papers collection and make available these rare examples of original documents from the reign of Saladin.
After the preface and introduction, the authors open their examination of these documents with a chapter situating them in their respective time periods. With one possible exception, the documents all date from before Saladin's defeat of the crusaders at [??]attin in 583/1187 and subsequent takeover of the Levantine coast...