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Pictures of Islamic History & the Muslim World

Pictures From History has launched Pictures From Islam, an online image collection devoted to historical and contemporary pictures of Islamic History and the Cultural Heritage of the Muslim World.

Islam is a broad civilization, both in geographical terms, and in terms of culture. We have been shooting contemporary pictures and collecting historical images relating to Islam and the Muslim World for more than 30 years, and we are now engaged in building an online image library devoted to Muslim civilization. Our stock collection presently numbers in excess of 20,000 pictures, and we are digitizing and uploading these on a daily basis while continuing to add new images every month.

Humayun, the 2nd Mughal emperor / ℗ Pictures From History

Pictures From Islam represents the wide canvas of Islamic civilization, including religion, art, architecture, literature, poetry, science, philosophy, geography, history, places – and of course people. Islam in its varied and rich traditions unites people from the Arabian Peninsula to the steppes of Central Asia, from China to West Africa, and from Malaysia to Western Europe, once home to the grand old Islamic Emirates of Cordoba and Granada, as well as to more than 16 million Muslims today.

Minaret and Dome of the Sher Dor Madrasa, Samarkand / © David Henley / CPA Media

Beyond the Muslim Faith, we seek to represent images of Islamic lifestyles, cuisines, festivals – and of course commerce. Islam was always closely associated with trade and  trade routes, from the Antique Silk Road through the Arabian Incense Route to the Spice Trade of the Indian Ocean. Then there are the millennia-old bazaars of cities like Damascus and Cairo. Through all of this, Pictures From Islam strives to reflect the diversity of the Muslim World and the extraordinary richness of its cultural heritage.

A haj pilgrim caravan en route to the Holy City of Mecca, 1237 CE / ℗ Pictures From History

Recent Assignments

CHIANG MAI is certainly our home, but we always welcome opportunities to get out and about for research and for photo shoots elsewhere in the Kingdom.

Recent assignments for the Tourism Authority of Thailand have included visits to Historic Phuket and to beautiful Ko Tarutao Marine National Park in the far south of the country, as well as to little-visited and unspoiled Loei Province in the northeastern region of Isan.


A Baba-Yaya marriage in Phuket, c. 1920 / ℗ Pictures From History

Peranakan is a Malay word that means “of mixed race”. It refers to the children of intermarriages called Peranakan, meaning that they are born locally and are of mixed blood. The word is used to identify the descendants of the first Chinese settlers in southern Thailand and peninsular Malaysia and their locally-born wives.

The great majority of these Chinese migrants came from southern Fujian province and spoke the Hokkien dialect. Industrious and ambitious, they were commercially successful, gradually developing and expanding both local and regional trade. Before too long, many became rich. Since few Chinese women made the long and adventurous journey south, they married with local Malay and Thai women. In this way the Peranakan community was born. The descendants of the original hardy and adventurous Chinese migrants adopting many facets of local culture while retaining their commercial links with home and with each other… continued



Fishing boats on the beach of Ko Rawi / © David Henley / CPA Media

Tarutao Marine National Park is the largest marine preserve in both Thailand and Southeast Asia. Founded as Thailand’s second marine national park in 1972, it comprises 51 islands in three distinct groups, located in the balmy waters of Thailand’s Andaman Sea. Thailand has more than its fair share of picture-perfect islands and beaches but what makes Tarutao so special is that, with the exception of the tiny island of Ko Lipe, no private resorts or infrastructure developments are permitted. This regulation is very strictly enforced.

This makes Tarutao a model for environmentally friendly tourism. Great emphasis has been placed by the authorities on preserving the region’s natural resources. Moreover the park is officially closed during the monsoon between May and November. Consequently the park remains wonderfully pristine and unspoiled… continued



Old wooden shophouses on Chai Kong Road, Chiang Khan / © David Henley / CPA Media

Loei Province in the far west of upper northeastern Thailand, or Isaan, is defined by the natural beauty of its landscape which embraces mountain ranges, rocky outcrops, waterfalls and extensive forests. Then there’s the mighty Mekong and the rich lowland farmlands. Remote and sparsely populated, the isolation, open spaces and abundant fresh air make Loei an attractive destination for natural and cultural ecotourism, while the provincial capital, also known as Loei, retains a charming small town feel.

The scenic landscape gives the province its unique ecotourism appeal. The beautiful and unspoiled Mekong River between Pak Chom and Chiang Khan, two traditional small towns with wooden shophouses and narrow streets joined by a winding riverside road, offers fine views of neighbouring Laos, shoals, rapids and sandbanks, as well as rich farmlands and orchards. Loei’s Mekong Valley really is a bucolic, rural idyll… continued

Ancient Chiang Mai Volume 6

© David Henley / CPA Media

Cognoscenti Books are pleased to release the sixth volume of their continuing series ANCIENT CHIANG MAI.

With twelve articles originally published in 2010, subjects covered include Ma Huan‘s ‘Back Door’ from China to Chiang Mai in 1433, Mae Chaem‘s Hidden Valley, Chiang Mai’s former Northern Ramparts, Yi Peng and Loi Patit – Lan Na’s Loi Krathong Festival in times past, Tomé Pires description of Lan Na, Burma and Siam in 1515, Wat Chiang Man, King Mangrai‘s ‘Temple of the Enduring City’ and Dr Paul Neïs’ Visit to ‘Xieng Mai’ in 1884.

For a preview of this book,  please go to: Ancient Chiang MaiVolume 6.

For a related collection of rare and colourful images, go to Pictures From History‘s Chiang Mai and the Lan Na Kingdom page and click on any of the images.

The Great Khans and the Mongol Imperium

Genghis Khan / ℗ Pictures From History

The greatest joy for a man is to defeat his enemies, to drive them before him, to take from them all they possess, to see those they love in tears, to ride their horses, and to hold their wives and daughters in his arms.

Conquering the world on horseback is easy; it is dismounting and governing that is hard.

Genghis Khan (r. 1206-27)

In the 13th century a new and unexpected power exploded onto the Central Asian scene, rapidly conquering the entire length of the Silk Road from Chang’an in the east to Antakya in the west under a single empire for the first time in history, and producing as a consequence the last great flourishing of Silk Road trade before the latter’s decline and gradual disappearance in the 15th and 16th centuries. The engine for this new empire was Mongol expansion, and the man who made it happen was a nomadic ruler called Temujin, who would later assume the title Genghis Khan (1206-27), the name by which he would be remembered – with a shudder by settled peoples from Chang’an to Baghdad and Budapest, and with fierce pride by the nomadic Mongols.

Kublai Khan / ℗ Pictures From History

Temujin was born c.1162 not far from Ulaan Baaatar, the present capital of Mongolia. Despite enduring a difficult childhood and relative poverty, he showed remarkable will power and military ability, gradually increasing in power and defeating his clan enemies until, in 1206, he united the feuding Mongol tribes under his sole leadership as Great Khan. He lived for a further 21 years, during which time his armies conquered a great part of Asia including the Silk Road between China and the Caspian Sea. On his death in 1227, the Mongol Empire is estimated to have encompassed 26 million sq kilometres, an area about four times the size of the Roman or Macedonian Empires at their peak.

Three Mongol Empresses / ℗ Pictures From History

Despite his ruthless efficiency as a military commander, Genghis was remarkably enlightened in matters of religion and culture, allowing his many conquered subjects considerable freedom of choice. He also set the seal on another aspect of Mongol policy – the encouragement of commercial and trade relationships between the increasingly far flung corners of their empire. This enlightened policy caused a brief but dazzling resurgence of the ancient Silk Road, as all merchants and ambassadors carrying proper documentation and authority were permitted – indeed encouraged – to travel throughout the vast Mongol realm under Imperial protection. As a consequence, overland trade between Asia and Europe greatly increased. During the 13th and early 14th century this policy encouraged hundreds, perhaps thousands of Western merchants to travel the Silk Route to China, the most celebrated of whom was Marco Polo…

Pictures From History has assembled an extensive collection of images relating to the Mongol Empire, including the most comprehensive collection of portraits of Mongol Khans, emperors, empresses and royal consorts available on the web. To view more than 150 images, go to Pictures From History‘s GREAT KHANS page and click on any of the revolving images; to continue reading the above text, go to our GREAT KHANS AND THE MONGOL IMPERIUM page.

Forthcoming Titles – April 2012

℗ Pictures From History

The story of the Vietnam War, together with its less familiar adjuncts, the ‘Secret Wars’ in Laos and Cambodia, is complex, painful and difficult to understand.

Before open US involvement in Indochina began with the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in 1964, few Americans knew much at all about Vietnam. Following the Fall of Saigon to communist forces in 1975 and the final US withdrawal, few Americans wanted to know much about Vietnam – except that at last, and at a cost of 58,220 dead, 1,687 missing and 303,635 wounded, the terrible war was finally over.

Nearly four decades on and everything has changed. Vietnam – together with its once ravaged neighbors, Laos and Cambodia – is open for business, open for travel, and very much open to Americans, who are now welcomed as friends and allies.

The author is a foreign correspondent who has lived in Southeast Asia  for 25 years and who knows Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia intimately. He also leads regular tours of Indochina for Wilderness Travel in California. As a lecturer he has, over the years, struggled to make sense of the American involvement in Indochina and to explain the deeper and more complex reasons behind not just the ‘Vietnam War’, but behind the three Indochina Wars fought with France (1946-54), America (1964-75) and China (1979-80) – all inextricably and confusingly linked.

Understanding the Indochina Wars is the product of many years of research, travel and writing, and seeks to present the Indochina Wars in a detailed yet clear and comprehensible narrative. It is aimed at anyone seeking to understand Vietnam’s bloodstained history during the 20th century, but more especially at American – and other – visitors traveling to the intoxicating and wonderful region that is Indochina.

Ancient Chiang Mai Volume 5

© David Henley / CPA Media

Cognoscenti Books are pleased to release the fifth volume of their continuing series ANCIENT CHIANG MAI.

With twelve articles originally published in 2009, subjects covered include the accounts of early travellers to Chiang Mai, the first cartography of the city, religious architecture of Chiang Mai and nearby Lamphun, accounts of the Mon Kingdom of Haripunchai, Marco Polo‘s link with the Lan Na Kingdom, and Luís Vaz de Camões’ 16th century description of the ‘Cannibal Gueos’.

For a preview of this book,  please go to: Ancient Chiang MaiVolume 5.

For a related collection of rare and colourful images, go to Pictures From History‘s Chiang Mai and the Lan Na Kingdom page and click on any of the images.

Pictures From History signs Representation Agreement with Lebrecht Photo Library

December 14, 2011: PICTURES FROM HISTORY announces the signing of a new representation agreement with LEBRECHT PHOTO LIBRARY.

As a new boy on the block, Pictures From History  – based in Chiang Mai – Thailand – is very pleased to announce the signing of a mutual representation agreement with the long-established London-based photo library Lebrecht Music and Arts.

Lebrecht Photo Library is the world’s largest resource for images of music and the creative arts from antiquity to 21st century, with access to more than five million images. The picture library was set up in 1992 by sculptress and specialist librarian Elbie Lebrecht. Initially based on an archive of classical  music images, it has expanded to represent a growing number of private collections and photographers working in the field of music, the performing arts and general arts. Its collection now extends to 170,000 images, and public institutions represented include the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and the Royal Academy of Music.

It seems pretty clear what Lebrecht can offer Pictures From History, including wide representation across Europe and North America, as well as advice and expertise in the online photo library industry, and we are very grateful to Elbie Lebrecht for offering us this wonderful opportunity.

In return, Pictures From History offers Lebrecht Photo Library access to its unique and expanding collection of historical images embracing the arts and culture of East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, as well as wider representation across Asia, Australasia and the Middle East.