Saturday, May 25, 2013

Exploding the myths about the Crusades

God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades by Rodney Stark

Taking the subtitle into account, this is the most provocatively titled book I've read since Peter Leithart's Against Christianity.

Actually, Stark is just telling the story of the Crusades - and what a fascinating story it is. He is not justifying them, but explaining them, and exploding some of the myths behind them.

Stark's points include:
  • The Crusades did not occur in a vacuum, but were a response to centuries of Muslim conquest and violence.
  • The Crusades were not driven by greed, but were recognized from the very beginning to be an excessively expensive exercise.
  • The crusaders were not more violent or barbaric than the Muslims.
  • The Muslim world has not held a 900-year grudge concerning the Crusades - Muslim antagonism about the Crusades did not appear until about 1900.
One example of the way the Crusades have been dealt with by historians concerns the Fall of Antioch in 1268, when a Muslim army took back Antioch, and slaughtered tens of thousands of its residents. Stark notes that whereas Christopher Tyerman (in his 2006 book God's War: A New History of the Crusades) devotes several pages to the massacre of Jerusalem during the First Crusade, he dismisses the massacre of Antioch in four words. Most histories of the Crusades, it would seem, have a sharp anti-Western bias.

This is an eminently readable, gripping introduction to a fascinating period of history - and one which has enormous relevance for the present day.

1 comment:

Alistair Bain said...

Yep. That's what I thought too.