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Baghdad was founded by the Abbasid Caliph Mansur the Victorious during the early Arab conquests of the 8th century, on a bend of the Tigris. The city flourished. Its first inhabitants called it City of Peace and for 200 years it grew into a fat jewel of wealth and hedonism and scholarship; the original of orientalist fantasy, the setting for 1001 Nights. Justin Marozzi’s Baghdad is a richly researched chronicle of a city that was once the learned capital of the world, but whose dizzying apex gave way to a long and miserably bloody decline. By the time Marozzi visited…

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