The Dragon and the Crescent

Grahame Davies
Publication Date: 
Saturday, April 30, 2011
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"This is a fully annotated work of scholarship as well as an always readable, sometimes exciting book that opens out a previously neglected aspect of Welsh - and British - culture over more than 400 pages" - Steve Dube, Western Mail

In the early twenty-first century, the relationship between the West and Islam has, due to recent political events, become the subject of intense study, curiosity and tension. But to understand contemporary anxieties, we need to trace their historical roots. The Dragon and the Crescent does this for one small European nation, revealing for the first time, the full and surprising story of the Welsh relationship with Islam.

This extensive study has gathered 200 extracts from a huge range of Welsh literature over a 900-year period. It contains the literary testimonies of Welsh Crusaders, of soldiers and seafarers, of missionaries and merchants, explorers and exploiters, pious pilgrims and hedonistic pleasure-seekers.

Ranging from Gerald of Wales's recruiting tour for the Crusades in 1188, up to recent controversy of the Muhammad cartoon, The Dragon and the Crescent is a fascinating and thought-provoking collections drawn from diaries, journals, dramas, travelogues, novels and poetry. It explores writing from both the languages of Wales by authors including Ann Griffiths, T Gwynn Jones, Cynan, T.E Lawrence, David Lloyd George, Gwenallt Richard Llewellyn, Anthony Burgess, Alun Lewis, Alun Richards, Nigel Jenkins, Williams Owen Roberts, Peter Finch, Robert Minhinnick, Gwyneth Lewis and Horatio Clare.

Graham Davies's informative and acute analysis opens up a whole new field of study, revealing the huge Muslim influence on Wales, and the equally momentous Welsh influence on Islamic lands. It examines responses to the growth of Islam in contemporary Wales, casting a new light on Welsh relations with minority communities, and challenging myths of Welsh tolerance. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in intercultural and interfaith relations.

This fascinating and at times unexpected view of Welsh, British and Islamic history is a hugely significant work for contemporary Britain.


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Review from Gwales

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"The author of this fascinating volume, an honorary research fellow at Cardiff University, is a well-known poet, novelist and literary critic in both Welsh and English. As is clear from the detailed and genuinely helpful footnotes and bibliography, the book is the result of seven long years of intensive research and reading. The theme is the long and involved inter-relationship between the Welsh and Islam: the twin issues of the considerable Muslim influence on Wales and the influence of the Welsh on Muslim lands"

"The study is a sequel to the author’s well received previous work, The Chosen People, published in 2002, an enthralling account of the relationship between the Welsh and the Jews. For that title the author unearthed eighty-five relevant items. For the present book the total topped 200 and surprised the author. They range from the age of the Crusades in the high Middle Ages right through to the present, from sources written on parchment to those despatched as e-mails. Sources include diaries, journals, plays, travelogues, novels, short stories and poems – in both Welsh and English. Generous quotations are printed from many of these sources"

"Poets from the mediaeval period and the age of the nobility like Iolo Goch feature here, as do keynote Welsh writers like Charles Edwards, William Williams Pantycelyn and Ellis Wynne. The authors cited range from Gerald of Wales to T. Gwynn Jones, from T. E. Lawrence to Cynan, from Gwenallt to Alun Lewis. The author’s mastery of all this disparate material is highly impressive. For the most part Grahame Davies found a negative, even harsh attitude towards Islam among the Welsh, with conspicuously little change of heart until the period following the Second World War"

"Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who features prominently in the book, was very strongly opposed to the Turk after the First World War. There were a few rare exceptions, such as the eighteenth-century Orientalist and linguist William Jones, and a few more enlightened travellers and sailors who were favourably disposed to Islam, its prophets and its followers"

"The new, much more enlightened attitude of recent decades has spawned a homespun Welsh Muslim literature, and a mature, positive, fruitful relationship has grown up between the Welsh and the Muslim. The political events of recent years make this an especially timely and apposite study, well worth perusing.

J. Graham Jones, Review on Gwales June 2011.

10/02/2012 - 15:08
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Review from Agenda

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"Grahame Davies has already written a ground-breaking study of Welsh contact with Judaism. Now he turns to our relationship with Islam for over a millennium. It is an excellently researched, academic and objective contribution to the history of Wales ... Grahame Davies' book is a treasury of knowledge about its subject ... a priceless tome."

Harri Pritchard Jones, Agenda, #44 Summer 2011, 85-87.

10/02/2012 - 15:06
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Review from Myfyrdodau

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"The story may not always be a positive one, but it ultimately gives us hope. Despite the conflicts and prejudices of history, the future relationship of Wales and Islam is yet to be written and lies in the hands of us all"

Muslim Council of Wales, Review on Myfyrdodau June 2011.

10/02/2012 - 15:04
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Review from Western Mail

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The relationship between the Western world and Islam in recent years seems to have been dominated by scenes of horror.

This weighty book by the poet, novelist and critic, who is a former winner of the Wales of the Year Award, looks beyond the headlines to examine how Wales and Islam have influenced each other over nine centuries.

Davies shows, for instance, how Crusades deflected Anglo-Norman attention and resources away from Wales and helped to delay the eventual conquest of Wales by two whole centuries.

And there was probably direct contact with the East even earlier, as signposted by the use of the Islamic profession of faith engraved in faulty Arabic on a gold dinar coin minted in the year 774 by King Offa of Mercia, the man who ordered the earthwork that still largely delineates the border between England and Wales.

More than a thousand years later, Davies observes that Muslims living in Wales are now contributing what will become in time identifiable strand within the broad patchwork of Welsh Literature.

Davies gathers together 200 extracts, ranging for the testimonies of Welsh Crusaders, seafarers, missionaries, pilgrims, explores and merchants to the work of modern poets like Sheenagh Pugh, Gweballt Cynan, Nigel Jenkins and Gwyneth Lewis.

This is a full annotated work of scholarship as well as an always readable, sometimes exciting book that opens out a previously neglected aspect of Welsh - and British - culture over more than 400 pages.

It exposes how, in one aspect at least, the Welsh have much more in common with the English than we night care to acknowledge. Davies says he found the same hostility, prejudice, ignorance, sympathy, romanticism, admiration and human failings in our contact with one of the world's greatest faiths.

In a society with a popular press that not to long ago showed the depth of popular ignorance by asking what Islam ever did "for us", this amounts to an important book.

Steve Dube, Western Mail

24/05/2011 - 11:10