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Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World Paperback – November 27, 2001

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Holy War: The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World + A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 628 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Books; 2nd edition (November 27, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385721404
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385721400
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (87 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,330 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Judaism, Christianity and Islam--obviously central to Middle East crises today--were also at the crux of the Crusades nearly 1000 years ago. Maps.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Recent historians have convincingly demonstrated that 13th-century European governments institutionalized three forms of irrational bigotry that have tragically affected the modern world: anti-Semitism, anti-homosexuality, and anti-Islam. This important book, which brings the perspective of a student of theology and literature who also knows traditional political history, sees the medieval Crusades as the root of current Middle East conflicts. Such a view substantiates the historical interpretation. The book attempts a "triple vision" of the concept of crusade or holy war for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, tracing the religious origins of conflict among the three peoples to their differing interpretations of scripture, the secular origins to 19th-century nationalism and imperialism. The result is an erudite, balanced, and lucidly written study which shows that false images, ridiculous perceptions, and absurd demons have haunted all three peoples. A mine of useful information on Muslim-Western perceptions of each other, this book for the general reader can be beneficially read by scholars and Middle Eastern experts.
-Bennett D. Hill, Georgetown Univ., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Karen Armstrong is the author of numerous other books on religious affairs-including A History of God, The Battle for God, Holy War, Islam, Buddha, and The Great Transformation-and two memoirs, Through the Narrow Gate and The Spiral Staircase. Her work has been translated into forty-five languages. She has addressed members of the U.S. Congress on three occasions; lectured to policy makers at the U.S. State Department; participated in the World Economic Forum in New York, Jordan, and Davos; addressed the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington and New York; is increasingly invited to speak in Muslim countries; and is now an ambassador for the UN Alliance of Civilizations. In February 2008 she was awarded the TED Prize and is currently working with TED on a major international project to launch and propagate a Charter for Compassion, created online by the general public and crafted by leading thinkers in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism, to be signed in the fall of 2009 by a thousand religious and secular leaders. She lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

Omissions, biases, and unsupported assertions just make this book unreadable.
J. Kelley
She focuses exclusively on the west slaughters of innocents during the crusades but the muslim attacks were justified and thus all right.
Thomas M. Magee
The reader must approach this book very carefully, because Armstrong's thesis does not work.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By frumiousb VINE VOICE on November 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
As is abundantly clear from the title, in Holy War Armstrong develops the thesis that the Crusades had a lasting impact which persists into the present. Perhaps the larger point that she is making is that the relationship between Islam/Christianity/Judaism today needs to be seen in the context of the past (including the more distant past) rather than being seen ahistorically.

Armstrong structures the book to support her thesis-- interspersing chapters relating to the current history of Jerusalem and Palestine with chapters about the major waves of crusades. It is not clear when you buy the book that you are going to get so much modern Middle Eastern history, and potential buyers should be aware of this as it may cause some frustration if you are expecting a book more like The Crusades Through Arab Eyes or a straight up crusading history.

In the reviews here at Amazon and in other forums there have been broad accusations of pro-Islamic bias levelled at Armstrong. I believe these accusations to be largely in error. If you read more than one of her books, Armstrong has dedicated herself to her notion of triple vision. Her stated project is to foster understanding between the three religions by talking directly to the misconceptions that we hold about each other. The writing in Holy War makes very clear that she intends the book for a western audience. Accordingly, she spends a great deal of time explaining the Islamic perspective under the assumption that it will be the point of view most lacking from the potential audience. I assume that were her presumed audience to be primarily Islamic she would probably irritate them by constantly defending the Christians.
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100 of 123 people found the following review helpful By M. A Michaud on March 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Even those of us who have studied the Crusades will learn much from this book. Armstrong digs deep into the events of the crusading era, providing freshly perceived context for those military and religious ventures. Her learning is impressive.
Her objectivity is less so. While Armstrong condemns religiously motivated aggression by Western European Christians, she passes much more lightly over the earlier behavior of Islamic conquerors who also were driven by religious zeal. At one point, she writes that "It is obvious that the Muslim ideal of holy war is very different from the Crusade: it is essentially defensive whereas the Crusaders, like the Jewish holy warriors, had made a holy initiative when they attacked the enemies of God and his chosen people." Yet earlier in the same book she had written "It was the duty of the Muslim state (the house of Islam) to conquer the rest of the non-Muslim world (the House of War) so that the world could reflect the divine unity." How is this morally preferable to crusading theory?
Those who were crushed by Islamic expansionists in the seventh and eighth centuries seem to have been forgotten. Ask the Iranians how they feel about the Muslim conquest of Persia. The memory is hardly golden.
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53 of 65 people found the following review helpful By tianxiang on September 20, 2005
Format: Paperback
Armstrong's thesis, that the Crusades are having an impact on contemporary Middle East politics and the relations among the three Abrahamic faiths, is well-researched and convincingly argued. It is fairly easy to posit that the past has an influence on what is going on today. I would definitely agree. It is also clear that the Crusaders engaged in some behavior that would quite naturally lead to resentment, distrust and anger among the people residing in the Middle East of that time and today. However, Armstrong makes the mistake of starting at the Crusades and ignoring that which occurred prior to the Christian armies taking back the Holy Land. She mentions in passing that Muslim armies had attacked non-Muslim lands but fails to condemn these invasions at all. One glaring error I found is that she claimed that Muslims had no aggressive intentions on Europe and that the Christians had no reason to suspect or fear Muslim aggression. Tell that to the Spaniards and the Eastern Europeans and the Byzantines. Let's not even mention that the entire Muslim expansion through Arabia, the Levant, North Africa, Persia and South Asia were accomplished with the sword. If I were a Christian in Europe or anywhere else in the world, I would have feared Muslim aggression based on history and reason, not due to some misunderstanding of the Muslims. Islam was, and in some ways remains, a religion not solely of the sword but definitely one in which the sword plays a central role. Perhaps another book could be written that could posit that the entire conflict in the Middle East today is a result of Muslim imperialism in the 7th-10th centuries C.E. which was the direct cause of the Christian reaction leading to the Crusades.Read more ›
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Fazal Majid on November 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
British theologian Karen Armstrong entered a convent at seventeen to become a Catholic nun. She defrocked in 1969 (this caused a great scandal among British Catholics, many of which have not forgiven her to this day). She has since become a student of the three great monotheistic religions, writing one bestseller on the subject, A History of God

In this book, she recounts the history of the Crusades and how it still shapes the modern-day Middle East. Interestingly, she tries to take a tripartite Christian/Jewish/Muslim view (more accurately, a quadripartite Catholic/Greek Orthodox/Jewish/Muslim view, but she herself writes about a "triple vision"). Most other accounts give short shrift to the Jewish point of view.

Even now, the subject is still fraught with passion and having an entirely unbiased view is probably unattainable by anyone party to one of those three traditions, but she does a good job of it in my opinion. It would be interesting to see a history of the Crusades written by a Chinese historian with no axe to grind... Certainly, her assessment is quite critical of the Crusaders, but the only actors to which she is wholly sympathetic are the humanistic Byzantines, who were poorly repaid for their forbearance towards the Crusaders by the sack of Constantinople.

Her central thesis is that the Crusades were the crucible where the modern European identity was forged, and that unfortunately in the process it was alloyed with anti-semitism and a visceral hostility towards Islam. Her second thesis, somewhat less convincing, is that in the current Israeli-Arab conflict, both parties are consciously replaying the Crusades.
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