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Marozzi, Justin 1970-

Marozzi, Justin 1970-

PERSONAL:

Born 1970.

ADDRESSES:

Home—London, England.

CAREER:

Writer, journalist, and historian.

WRITINGS:

South from Barbary: Along the Slave Routes of the Libyan Sahara, HarperCollins (London, England), 2001.

Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World, HarperCollins (London, England), 2004.

SIDELIGHTS:

Travel writer, journalist, and historian Justin Marozzi is the author of South from Barbary: Along the Slave Routes of the Libyan Sahara and Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World. His first book, South from Barbary, is the story of Marozzi's three-month journey with his friend Ned Cecil 1,500 miles across the Sahara Desert. Accompanied by five camels and a variety of Tuareg and Tubbu guides, the two Englishmen retrace the route taken for centuries by countless slaves and slave traders from sub-Saharan Africa to the ancient cities of the Mediterranean littoral. In the process, Marozzi reexamines the role of the British in suppressing the trans-Saharan slave trade and evokes the spirit of nineteenth-century adventurers. South from Barbary draws on "evocative nineteenth century eyewitness accounts of the slave trade in action," declared Stephen Williams in African Business, "and chronicles the long-running moves in Britain and the West to put an end to ‘the most gigantic form of wickedness the world ever saw.’" A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "unfailingly interesting and downright refreshing" and concluded that South from Barbary is "travel-writing for true adventurers as well armchair ones."

Tamerlane is Marozzi's biography of the great fourteenth-century Turkic conqueror Timur, who reunited most of the old Mongol empire some two hundred years after the death of Genghis Khan and established the line of Mughal rulers who controlled India up until the 1850s. In a career that stretched for decades, Timur launched campaigns against regimes in Persia (now Iran), Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ming China, India, Iraq, Syria, and Ottoman Turkey. In the Turkish campaign, he actually captured the Sultan Bayezid I at the battle of Ankara in 1402 and held him hostage until the sultan's death the following year. His career has been commemorated in Western literature, most famously by the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine.

Like South from Barbary, Tamerlane is a kind of modern travelogue. "This is far from an ordinary historical biography," declared Tim O'Neil on PopMatters: "part travelogue, part cultural history, this is more of a cook's tour than a standard scholarly treatment." The journalist visits different sites associated with the Central Asian warlord, examining how they have changed since the conqueror visited them. He also looks at Timur's rising reputation in Central Asia (particularly Uzbekistan) as compared to his relative obscurity in the modern West. Although well known in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Europe, the name of Timur was quickly forgotten outside his own lands. This was partly because, although he was a great military leader, he was an ineffectual administrator. "The vast empire he established—though the term suggests an administrative unity it never possessed—started to disintegrate on the day of his death in 1405; 100 years later it had vanished entirely," explained an Economist reviewer. "To one historian, he represented the ‘supreme example of soulless and unproductive militarism’ until the advent of Hitler."

In fact, wrote Geographical contributor Nick Smith, Tamerlane is at least in part "an attempt to figure out why today's media-friendly incarnation of Tamerlane is so useful to the government of Uzbekistan." For Uzbekis, who are trying to establish a national identity of their own in the modern world after decades of Soviet and Russian domination, Timur represents a proud period in their history, despite his bloodthirsty reputation. "He has been rehabilitated in Uzbekistan, and has become the symbol of its recovered nationality," declared Spectator reviewer Allan Massie. "Wedding parties are photographed under his statue, and President Islam Karimov (himself once a Communist apparatchik) identifies with ‘the Uzbek hero.’ The official organ of Karimov's party declares that ‘the policies of our President, directed at giving due respect to the spirit of our ancestors, teach us all to be worthy of those qualities embodied by Amir Temur.’ ‘Like Temur,’ Marozzi observes laconically, ‘the Uzbek resident does not tolerate opposition on any level.’" The author, stated a reviewer for the Present Tensed Web log, "succeeds in connecting the historical Tamerlane … to the psyche of the modern Uzbekistan and exploring the monuments and great cities that have been lost along the way." "Temur," Massie concluded, "is back."

In general, critics regarded Marozzi's accomplishment in Tamerlane as an important step toward a reassessment of the status of the Central Asian warlord. "When discussing Temur's capital of Samarkand," O'Neil stated, "Marozzi pulls from a wide variety of sources regarding the architecture and craft of Temur's period through to the present, the city's history from its founding and construction through to the post-Soviet era, and the cultural history of the peoples who live and have lived in the area now known as Uzbekistan." A California Bookwatch contributor called the book "a spirited, riveting account [that] blends ancient and modern worlds." Similarly, Gilbert Taylor in Booklist, commended "Marozzi's fine performance of evoking the past and present of one of history's most lurid empire builders." And Camden Alexander concluded in a review on the Web site Curled Up with a Good Book that "history junkies will be repulsed yet fascinated by Marozzi's account of this little-remembered, once greatly feared man."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

African Business, October 1, 2001, Stephen Williams, review of South from Barbary: Along the Slave Routes of the Libyan Sahara, p. 48.

Booklist, April 1, 2006, Gilbert Taylor, review of Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World, p. 14.

California Bookwatch, May 1, 2006, review of Tamerlane.

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, February 1, 2007, G.G. Guzman, review of Tamerlane, p. 1039.

Contemporary Review, January 1, 2005, review of Tamerlane, p. 61.

Economist, August 28, 2004, "Lame but Never Halting; Tamerlane," p. 75.

Geographical, September 1, 2004, Nick Smith, review of Tamerlane, p. 105; December 1, 2005, Sian Gibson, review of Tamerlane, p. 81.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2003, review of South from Barbary, p. 793.

Library Journal, July 1, 2003, Edward K. Owusu-Ansah, review of South from Barbary, p. 112.

London Review of Books, May 19, 2005, "Quite a Gentleman," p. 9.

Spectator, August 21, 2004, Allan Massie, "A Terrible Beauty Reborn," p. 29.

Times Literary Supplement, January 28, 2005, "Worse Than Genghis," p. 6.

ONLINE

Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (August 16, 2008), Camden Alexander, review of Tamerlane.

PopMatters,http://www.popmatters.com/ (August 16, 2008), Tim O'Neil, review of Tamerlane.

Present Tensed Web log,http://rasml.org/ (August 16, 2008), review of Tamerlane.

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