Baghdad: An Urban History through the Lens of Literature  book cover
1st Edition

Baghdad: An Urban History through the Lens of Literature

ISBN 9780367670443
Published September 30, 2020 by Routledge
134 Pages

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Book Description

In recent years, Baghdad has been viewed as a battleground for political conflicts; this interpretation has heavily influenced writings on the city. This book moves away from these perspectives to present an interdisciplinary exploration into the urban history of Baghdad through the lens of literature. It argues that urban literature is an effective complementary source to conventional historiography, using in-depth analysis of texts, poems and historical narratives of non-monumental urban spaces to reveal an underexamined facet of the city’s development.

The book focuses on three key themes, spatial, nostalgic and reflective, to offer a new approach to the study of Baghdad’s history, with a view to establishing and informing further strategies for future urban developments. Beginning with the first planned city in the eighth century, it looks at the urban transformations that influenced building trends and architectural styles until the nineteenth century.

It will appeal to academics and researchers in interdisciplinary fields such as architecture, urban history, Islamic studies and Arabic literature.

Table of Contents

Illustrations  Preface  Author’s Note  Introduction  1. The Urban History of Baghdad  2. Textual Representation of Architecture 3. The Urban Literature of Baghdad before the 18th Century 4. Interpreting the Texts of the 18th and 19th Centuries  Summary  Endnotes

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Iman Al-Attar is an Iraqi architect, historian and a doctor in philosophy and urban history. She was born in Baghdad, Iraq and received her BA in Architecture from the University of Baghdad. She completed her MA in Urban Design at the University of Auckland, before graduating with a PhD in Philosophy and Urban History from the University of Tasmania in 2014.

Al-Attar has participated in a number of conferences dealing with architectural history and heritage, and a number of her research papers have been published. She worked in urban planning for several years, and is currently doing research on topics including urban history, Islamic architecture, conservation and cultural issues.


"Iman Al Attar’s Baghdad: An Urban History through the Lens of Literature is an essential text for anyone studying the history of this ancient city. Evoking the ethereal qualities of the urban via scholarly texts, in the tradition of Calvino’s Invisible Cities, the book interprets and presents the essence of Baghdad as a natural, spiritual, communal, social and architectural presence using ‘thematic’ and ‘cumulative’ techniques of literary analysis. Comparing literature and poetry from pre- eighteenth century, eighteenth century and post- eighteenth century, the book focuses on the quintessential characteristics of the city: the two settlements divided by a river, the Tigris and its bridges, the adjoining public gardens, along with the urban interior of markets, cafes, mosques and private courtyard residences. The book is welcome addition to the literature of middle eastern urbanism. As the cities of this region are redeveloped or rebuilt their futures may be usefully informed by a profound historiographical understanding of the patterns and practices of meaningfully inhabiting these landscapes in a sustainable and resilient manner."

Diane Brand, University of Auckland, New Zealand