Justin Marozzi

Justin is a writer, historian, journalist and communications expert. He has travelled extensively in the Middle East and Muslim world and in recent years has worked in conflict and post-conflict environments such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Mali, Yemen and Ukraine. He graduated from Cambridge with a Starred Double First in History in 1993, before studying Broadcast Journalism at Cardiff University and winning a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania to read a Masters in International Relations. After working in the BBC World Service, he joined the Financial Times as a foreign correspondent in Manila, where he also wrote for the Economist. During his time in the Far East, he shared a Winnebago with Imelda Marcos, a helicopter with the Philippine president and his mistress, and a curry with Aung San Suu Kyi whilst under house arrest in Rangoon.

His first book, South from Barbary, was an account of a 1,200-mile expedition by camel along the slave routes of the Libyan Sahara, described by the desert explorer and SAS veteran Michael Asher as “the first significant journey across the Libyan interior for a generation”. His second, Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World, launched in Baghdad in 2004, was the best-selling biography of the world’s greatest Islamic conqueror and a Sunday Telegraph Book of the Year: “Outstanding… Justin Marozzi is the most brilliant of the new generation of travelwriter-historians.”

In 2006, he wrote Faces of Exploration, a collection of profiles of the world’s leading explorers. He has contributed to Meetings with Remarkable Muslims (an interview with the Afghan mujahid hero Ahmed Shah Massoud), The Seventy Greatest Journeys, The Great Explorers, Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East, and The Art of War (essays on Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan and Tamerlane).

The Man who Invented History: Travels with Herodotus was published in October 2008 and was based on extensive research in Turkey, Iraq, Egypt and Greece. Apart from a year working for a British security company in Iraq, an encounter with the Grand Mufti of Egypt and an investigation into outwardly religious girls performing oral sex in car-parks in Cairo, one of the many highlights of the Herodotean trail was a retsina-fuelled lunch with the nonagenarian war hero and writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor.

Justin is a regular contributor to a wide range of national and international publications, including the Financial Times, Spectator, The Times, Sunday Telegraph, Guardian, Evening Standard, where he writes on international affairs, the Muslim world, defence and security issues and literature, and has broadcast for the BBC World Service and Radio Four.

Justin is a Fellow and former Councillor of the Royal Geographical Society and a Senior Research Fellow in Journalism and the Popular Understanding of History at Buckingham University’s Humanities Research institute.

Baghdad: City of Peace, City of Blood was published in 2014 by Allen Lane (Penguin). For this he was the recipient of the 2015 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize, with the judges describing BAGHDAD as ‘a genuinely monumental achievement’.

Islamic Empires: Fifteen Cities that Define a Civilisation was published in August 2019 by Allen Lane. It focuses on the history of the rich and diverse Islamic civilization told through its greatest cities over the fifteen centuries of Islam, from its earliest beginnings in Mecca in the seventh century to the astonishing rise of Doha in the twenty-first. Reviewing it in the Sunday Times, Peter Frankopan praised it as “An outstanding history of Islam. Excellent, authoritative and illuminating.”

The Arab Conquests: the Spread of Islam and the First Caliphates, the story of one of the greatest feats of arms in history, was published by Head of Zeus in 2021. Aspects of History applauded it as a “swashbuckling tale… with a pacey narrative, vibrant evocations of place, characteristic sense of humour, and clever use of original sources”.

A Thousand Golden Cities: 2,500 Years of the Finest Writing on Afghanistan, a feast of prose and poetry by Afghans and foreigners who have fallen in love with this extraordinary country, will be published by Head of Zeus in 2023.

Justin’s latest book, Possessed: A History of Slavery in the Islamic World, will be published by Allen Lane in 2024.

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