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The Cross and The Crescent: The Dramatic Story of the Earliest Encounters Between Christians and Muslims Paperback – February 1, 2005


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (February 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143034812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143034810
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #454,437 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Richard Fletcher reminds his readers that the scope of his book is limited, even though the story he is telling is not. An adept historian who writes with clarity and expertise, Fletcher sets for himself the nearly impossible task of relating the complex interrelations between the Islamic and Christian worlds from the 7th to the 16th centuries, focusing on the Mediterranean, but touching upon Northern Europe, Asia Minor, and even on the vast reach of the Mongol Empire. Fletcher describes the establishment of Islam in the 7th century and the subsequent rise of the Abbasid Empire a century later and describes the shift from an Islamic society defined by Arab ethnicity to a ruling power defined by religion and culture. Initially, Fletcher explains, Christians were tolerated (but disdained) in the fast-expanding Islamic world primarily because they provided a link to the ancient Greek and Roman learning their conquerors coveted. However, in less-receptive regions, such as North Africa, Church leaders fled to Sicily and southern France, weakening a Christian presence in those areas.

While Fletcher provides many examples of interaction between the two worlds--including diplomacy, pilgrimage, trade, and most obviously, war (the Crusades)--he maintains that these contacts were never solidified by an earnest attempt on the part of these diverse cultures to "blend." In the best of times there was coexistence. In the worst, there was outright persecution. The reversal of Islamic supremacy took many centuries. Fletcher cannot explain the complex reasons for this in great detail. However, he does provide some provocative insight. The Islamic world flourished when it was most open to ancient thought. Similarly, the groundwork for European hegemony was laid when 13th-century Christian thinkers began to absorb and expand on Islamic learning. By contrast, the Islamic world withdrew "from intellectual recepitivity" at the height of its power. There is a lesson to be learned here. The exchange and integration of ideas can be mightier than the sword. --Silvana Tropea --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This illuminating study of Christian-Muslim relations in the Middle Ages shows just how intractable the conflict between Islam and the West has always been. Historian Fletcher (Bloodfeud; Barbarian Conversion; etc.), covers the period from the first Muslim conquests in the seventh century to the 16th-century peak of the Ottoman Empire. The story is one of frequent military conflict, but also of trade, diplomacy, technological diffusion and intellectual exchange as the Muslim world absorbed and elaborated the science and philosophy of the Greeks and then retransmitted them to Europe. Despite these far-reaching economic and cultural interactions, Fletcher argues, Christians and Muslims lived in "a state of mutual religious aversion," even in border regions like Spain where substantial populations of both faiths lived side by side; Christians viewed Muslims as bloodthirsty heretics, while Muslims sneered at Christian trinitarianism as a self-contradictory polytheism superceded by Muhammad's revelations. Fletcher's stress on early modern Europe's growing (but unrequited) openness to and curiosity about Islam as the key to the evolution of the notion of religious pluralism-a development rooted ultimately, he feels, in the multiplicity and diversity of Christian theological traditions-is fairly conventional rise-of-the-West historiography. Still, he ably synthesizes a mass of historical material on the ways in which people both accommodated and resisted the influence of alien religions in their lives. The result is a readable, nuanced account that raises profound questions about the role of religion and ideology in shaping our worldview.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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I haven't read it yet but I'm sure I will enjoy it immensely.
Patrick G.
Nevertheless, Fletcher presents a concise and highly readable analysis of Islamic-Christian relations since the founding of Islam.
Driver9
Much of the book details the cultural, economic and especially intellectual interchange between communities in the middle ages.
doc peterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By M. A Michaud on June 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Covering eight hundred years of Christian-Moslem relations in one hundred and sixty pages may seem like an impossible task, but Richard Fletcher does it remarkably well. He avoids the details of wars and dynasties, tracking the major flows of events both with general descriptions and with selected examples and quotations that make larger points. His first chapter is particularly effective in introducing the reader to Islam and the Arabs as they were in the seventh century, with Muslims generally aloof from Christianity while Christians saw Muslims as threatening.
Fletcher challenges some common wisdom, such as Pirenne's theory that Charlemagne would not have existed without Mohammad. His portrayal of the scholars whose translations of ancient works contributed to stimulating the Renaissance is less romantic than some other versions. Fletcher makes clear the practicalities of being part of a minority population. On the other hand, he responds to recent harsh criticisms of the Crusades by remarking that "rebuking the past from the different moral standpoint of the present does not advance historical understanding."
In his epilogue, Fletcher writes that attitudes laid down like rocks long ago continue to shape the moral environment of Muslims and Christians. "There is a geology of human relationships," he reminds us, "which it is unwise to neglect." Unfortunately, Fletcher has been poorly served by the inadequate maps that accompany his text, as they provide no geographic detail other than coastlines.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By L. F Sherman on June 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
With research including the true story behind the El Cid legend and on Christian Conversion of Barbarians, as well as Moorish Spain, Fletcher has special experience to bring to the task at hand.
Emphasizing Christian-Muslim relations in Spain he provides balance and great interest with wise observations and fascinating examples. He does not idealize or demonize either but presents an interesting story and sound basis for understanding the era before the Reformation and an example for approaching interfaith history more generally.
This is an outstanding and readable book that maintains perspective and is soundly rooted in scholarship
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Venn on November 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is probably the only book that you need to read regarding the social relationships, commerce, science/philosophy that happened in the Mediterranean world for 1000 years. I really enjoyed it. And this time there are footnotes to the quotes, and a small further reading section that lists about 5 books for each chapter. Two of the suggested books are used in the book itself.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Driver9 on January 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
I became with Richard Fletcher's book as a result of a very favorable book review, and quickly realized why the review was so positive. When I finally located it, I was surprised how small it was. Nevertheless, Fletcher presents a concise and highly readable analysis of Islamic-Christian relations since the founding of Islam.

One aspect of the book I found especially fasinating was the relationship between "Eastern" christian churches and the Roman Catholic Church. Often, the Eastern churches (i.e., Armenian, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Syrian, to name a few) were treated with as much suspicion by the west as Islam. Fletcher's discussion of the crusades was also fascinating.

To say that the subject of this book is timely and historically important is, of course, an understatement. Probably most Americans would learn something important about our Islamic neighbors at this time of war, hatred, bloodshed and misunderstanding. As we begin nation building in Iraq, or Iran or eslewhere in the middle east, as we watch the death toll mounting from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will need as much information as we can gather to promote peace. This book is a great place to start.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jan Peczkis on June 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover
While this book is about Muslim-Christian relations, it also presents some unique information. In terms of specifics, the book tabulates the Biblical references to prayer (pp. 70-71). The postures of prayer include kneeling, standing, spreading out hands, etc. Parshall notes the irony of Muslim prayer habits often being "more Biblical" than the often casual manner that Christians pray. Although God is much more interested in the attitude of the heart than the position of the body, Parshall's analysis provides food for thought for all who would wish to re-evaluate their approach to prayer.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By doc peterson VINE VOICE on January 9, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Richard Fletcher is an emeritus professor from York University, whose The Barbarian Conversion: From Paganism to Christianity is a classic in the field of theological history. His short account of Christian / Islamic relations is similarly fascinating. Fletcher begins with a broad commentary on the dogmatic differences in religious texts: the Qu'ran, like the Bible is "revealed" knowlege - an understanding of man's role in the world through divine revelation. However, Fletcher points out, the nature of these revelations are telling: whereas the liturgical texts of Christianity are a "mass of myth, history, law, poetry, counsel ... no less than four versions of the life of Jesus of Nazareth, each one slightly different from the other three, ... and a work of apocalyptic prophesy unveling the imminent end of the world ..." Islam is much more doctrinally strict, without many of the ambiguities, contradictions and obscurities that Christianity has. The nature of Christian thought, then, is rooted in disagreement, debate and argument while the controversies of Islam primarily focus on the source of authority over the Islamic community (both politically and doctrinally.) These fundamental differences have shaped with ways in which followers of these brethern religions shape their view of the world.

From here, the interactions between Islam and Christianity are explored in greater detail, Fletcher explaining how these religious perceptions shaped the ways in which these two communities saw each other.
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