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The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Bampton Lectures in America)

4.2 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0231146241
ISBN-10: 0231146248
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Editorial Reviews


The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam is a very important intervention on a topic not only of current interest but also of pressing importance. Jonathan Riley-Smith shows why and how history matters.

(Adam Kosto, associate professor of history, Columbia University)

Jonathan Riley-Smith has written a scintillating and thought-provoking book. He provides a compelling survey not just of the place of crusading in medieval reflection about the ethics of violence and the Christian's achievement of salvation but also of how the revival of crusading rhetoric by nineteenth-century imperialists generated the Islamic association of crusading with 'Western' aggression that is so conspicuous today.

This richly informed little book should be considered essential for understanding crusading, then and now.

(Booklist (starred review))

This is a powerhouse of a book, enlightening, well-written and accessible, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the crusades.

(Melissa Snell About.com)

A Booklist 2008 Editors' Choice

(Booklist - Editors' Choice)

This slender volume provides an interesting insight into the way in which contemporary history has had an impact on studies of the crusades.

(James M Powell Catholic Historical Reivew)

Brimming with insights, approachable by anyone interested in the subject.

(Thomas F. Madden First Things)

An excellent book.

(John France The International History Review)

Book Description

A leading authority on medieval history considers the repercussions of the Crusades in modern times.

--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Series: Bampton Lectures in America
  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Columbia University Press (September 30, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0231146248
  • ISBN-13: 978-0231146241
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #936,054 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Over the last five decades, Jonathan Riley-Smith has revolutionized--or, more appropriately, counter-revolutionized--the historical study of The Crusades by demonstrating that they were not driven by avarice, greed, and imperialism but instead by piety, religious enthusiasm, a sense of duty, and a genuinely fervent desire to liberate the Holy Lands and return them to Christian hands. Moreover, he showed that, far from enriching themselves, the Crusaders suffered real personal expense and hardship in order to pursue what they saw as the will of God in what he refers to as "penitential warfare." From what I've been able to find on-line, it appears that even most who are most reluctant to let the Crusaders and Christianity off the hook have come to accept the validity of his view.

In these lectures, Mr. Riley-Smith provides a nice short rehearsal of his basic arguments in this regard. He then moves on to a discussion of how Enlightenment opponents of Christianity, Romantic authors klike Sir Walter Scott, and anti-Imperialists of the late 19th century produced the historically warped version of the Crusades that came to be all too widely accepted in the West and that, tragically, was then adopted by Islamic jihadis to fuel hatred of Chistendom. In effect, many of the resentments of al Qaeda owe nothing to the actual history of the interaction of Christianity and Islam in the Holy Lands and everything to the misrepresentations of, if not outright lies about, that history that have been propounded in the West.

This slender book is a splendid corrective to the malignant view of the Crusades that remains a part of popular culture--like Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven--and a compelling rebuttal to those who claim that "they hate us" because of our own past actions. It's a must read.
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Format: Hardcover
Keeping in mind that this is the text from a lecture, I found it both rational and well thought out. Considering that JR-S has written five other books about the Crusades, and others about specific crusades, I'm not surprise that he has a good handle on the subject. But, he does something many academics can't do, explain his subject in a way that is pleasant to read while giving a factual account

JR-S is best when he is interpreting what has been written with what actually (to the best of his knowledge) happened. This isn't as easy as it sounds, since many of the materials that come down to us from medieval times, were altered as they were copied and translated (sometimes deliberately) or in some cases were total fabrications. It was not unusual for the nobility to have their family history 'adjusted' to give their ancestors a larger place in history then they deserved. Knowing what is true and what is 'myth' is what makes this a strong lecture.

The part that discusses the modern relationship between the Crusades and the radical Islamists, is especially pertinent to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The way that westerners (sometimes still referred to as 'Franks' by some extremists) are perceived in parts of the Middle East and in Dar al-Islam is in many ways the result of how the Ottoman Empire was divided by France and Britain at the end of World War One.

This is one lecture I'm sorry I missed.

Zeb Kantrowitz
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Format: Paperback
In The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam, Jonathan Riley-Smith has provided a succinct, powerful work that helps us understand the historical memory of the Crusades in both the Western and Islamic worlds. Given the sensitivities over the Crusading era with both Christians and Muslims, the author does a remarkable job at correcting common misperceptions in both groups.

The author begins with the misperceived uniqueness of the Crusades, that is, the sanctioning of holy war was not an aberration in the history of Christianity. Instead, Riley-Smith demonstrates that Christian leaders had struggled with the use of violence through the first millennium of Christianity's existence, as men such as St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) sought to reconcile the conflicting peaceful and violent overtones throughout Scripture. Augustine eventually conceived of "holy war" where men could take up arms given a certain set of circumstances. The Crusades used the same logic to sanction violence, but with the added features of military orders such as the Templars, the taking of vows, and "collective acts of penance, repayments through self-punishment of debts owed to God for sin" (pp. 28, 33).

The most fascinating aspects of the first two chapters are the methods the popes and Church leaders used to recruit participants of the Crusades. Traveling from city to city and coordinating their arrivals with local feasts, Church leaders came through with great pomp and show, giving fiery messages about the need to liberate the Holy Land. As the Crusades continued, preachers added drama through music, public vows, and elaborate props (p. 38).
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By MD on February 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Riley-Smith does a good job explaining how modern concepts of the Crusades are biased on nationalistic experiences and not so much on facts. This is a good read and he back up his sources well. I red this for a History in the Middle East Class at PCC.

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