Massive, detailed biography of Saladin, in which the author endeavors to separate history from myth and legend--first published in France in 2008.
Eddé (Medieval History/Univ. of Reims) mines below the official rhetoric of Saladin's secretaries and administrators to develop a historical account independent of the many mythologies surrounding his biography. In the West, thanks to Voltaire and Walter Scott, among others, Saladin has been viewed as a kind of ecumenical peacemaker by negotiation. In the Middle East, he has been embodied as the victorious opponent over foreign aggression and invasion. Saladin defeated the crusader army in July 1187, opening the way to the conquest of Acre, Haifa, Caesarea and ultimately Jerusalem; this string of victories established his reputation as a conqueror, unifier and religious leader. But Eddé shows that Saladin was very much bound by his subordinate relation to the Caliphs and by the willingness of various subsidiary lords to provide him with troops and resources. He built an empire, and used some of the proceeds to rebuild Sunni Islam by financing the spread of education, but his creation did not outlive him. Where Jay Rubenstein's Armies of Heaven (2011) considers the apocalyptical belief structures of the crusaders, Eddé discusses the political and diplomatic contexts of the religious war. She also points to wars over the control of trade with Asia as a contributing factor.
Extensive research creates a picture readily distinguishable from the many Saladin myths.