Much of this book was written with the support of an utterly undeserved Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The History department of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame rather too gleefully provided me with the semesters off to enjoy the honour, and Notre Dame’s Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts provided the administrative help in dealing with it all.
Many individuals had some role to play in the final form of this book, though I can name only a few of them here. Any faults that remain are of course entirely my own. Niall Christie, Don-John Dugas, Anne Lester and John Meloy were valued sounding-boards for some of my editorial decisions at an early stage. Andrew Dimock and Megan Reid read more mature and lengthy versions of the text, and their comments were correspondingly crucial. Drs Meloy and Reid in particular gave generously of their time to help me hunt down and bag superfluities of prose. Many others provided key moments of clarity and assistance, including Remie Constable, Bruce Craig, Michael Driscoll, Steve Humphreys, Hilary Kilpatrick, Yaacov Lev, Alexander Martin, Megan Montague, Carl Petry, Nasser Rabbat, Warren Schultz, Daniella Talmon-Heller and Cristina Tonghini. My parents and siblings provided the usual chorus of warm approval. The people at Penguin made the writing of the book a true pleasure, especially Charlene Davis at the very beginning and Mariateresa Boffo, Elisabeth Merriman and Monica Schmoller at the very end.
I also thank the publisher Taylor and Francis for granting me permission to print slightly amended versions of translations that originally appeared in two articles by me: ‘Usama ibn Munqidh’s Book of the Staff (Kitab al-’Asa): Autobiographical and Historical Excerpts’, Al-Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean 17 (2005), pp. 109–23, and ‘Usama ibn Munqidh’s Kernels of Refinement (Lubab al-Adab): Autobiographical and Historical Excerpts’, Al-Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean 18 (2006), pp. 67–78. For further details see www.informaworld.com. The family tree of the Banu Munqidh included in this book is based upon that found in André Miquel’s translation, Des Enseignements de la Vie (Paris, 1983), pp. 78–9, with some emendations.
A few people gave me special gifts. David Nicolle kept me honest about my translations of medieval military technical terms and helped me crack the vexing mystery of the ‘chisel-headed’ arrow. Qasim al-Samarrai, in a gesture that Usama would have foundmin al-’aja’ib, sent me from Leiden his personal copy of his hard-to-find edition of the Kitab al-I’tibar so that I might make my own copy for use in this translation. Ella Almagor greatly helped this translation through gentle correction over the years and sheer inspiration as we spent a memorable Jerusalem evening swapping stories like a couple of old Munqidhites. Her own labour of love, a Hebrew translation of Usama’s work, is eagerly expected. Finally, L. M. Harteker waited with beauty, wit and patience while I finally found the good sense to dedicate a book to her.