A History.

AuthorTatlock, Jason R.

Burns, Ross. Aleppo: A History. London: Routledge, 2018.

Despite what the title of the book indicates, Ross Burns provides much more than simply an overview of the history of this important city in the north of Syria. In approximately three hundred pages, the reader is taken on an exploration of ancient Near Eastern and Middle Eastern history. As with any key city, especially one situated along a geographical thoroughfare, Aleppo's people, places, and events reflect broader historical and cultural occurrences in the region. Thus, Aleppo is a microcosm of larger affairs. As such, its past reminds the reader of the history of Jerusalem, another of the Middle East's pivot locations with a diverse population and a coalescence of faith traditions. What Burns has achieved is both a survey of the core of the Middle East and a detailed treatment of matters specific to Aleppo, and he utilizes the site's architectural history as an effective means to link Aleppo to the outside world.

The book is divided into eleven main chapters with a postscript, covering Aleppo from the Bronze and Iron eras (chapter 1) to the Greco-Roman period (chapter 2) to Byzantine times (chapter 3) to pre-Crusader Islamic history (chapter 4) to the era just prior to and including the early Crusader days (chapter 5) to the era of the initial Crusade (chapter 6) to Zengid rule (chapter 7) to Ayyubid hegemony (chapter 8) to Mamluk dominance (chapter 9) to about half of the Ottoman period (chapter 10) and to the remainder of that era and beyond (chapter 11). The postscript moves the narrative from the twentieth century to the time Burns finished the book when Syria's civil conflict had already reached devastating effects. One minor criticism of the structure of Aleppo is that chapter 11, "Modernising Aleppo (1750-2000)," does not adequately bring things up to the turn of the twenty-first century as anticipated.

Nevertheless, it is a well-conceived and well-organized book. As noted, architecture is an essential aspect of Burns's analysis, and the reader can sense a personal passion for Aleppo's structures. The human tragedy that has affected Syria of late is, of course, even more impactful and saddening than changes to the urban landscape in Aleppo, which are documented in the postscript, but we can join with Burns's in lamentation. The following both recognizes the removal of physical history and serves as an effective way to summarize the nature of Burns's work...

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