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God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

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God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

In this panoramic history of Islamic culture in early Europe, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian reexamines what we once thought we knew.

At the beginning of the eighth century, the Arabs brought a momentous revolution in power, religion, and culture to Dark Ages Europe. David Levering Lewis's masterful history begins with the fall of the Persian and Roman empires, followed by the rise of the prophet Muhammad and the creation of Muslim Spain. Five centuries of engagement between the Muslim imperium and an emerging Europe followed, from the Muslim conquest of Visigoth Hispania in 711 to Latin Christendom's declaration of unconditional warfare on the Caliphate in 1215. Lewis's narrative, filled with accounts of some of the greatest battles in world history, reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished — a beacon of cooperation and tolerance between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity — while proto-Europe, defining itself in opposition to Islam, made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war, and slavery. A cautionary tale, God's Crucible provides a new interpretation of world-altering events whose influence remains as current as today's headlines. 8 pages of color illustrations; 4 maps.

Review:

"This superb portrayal by NYU history professor Lewis of the fraught half-millennium during which Islam and Christianity uneasily coexisted on the continent just beginning to be known as Europe displays the formidable scholarship and magisterial ability to synthesize vast quantities of material that won him Pulitzer Prizes for both volumes of W.E.B. Du Bois.

In characteristically elegant prose, Lewis shows Islam arising in the power vacuum left by the death throes of the empires of newly Christianized Rome and Persian Iran, then sweeping out of the Middle East as a fighting religion, with jihad inspiring cultural pride in hitherto marginalized Arab tribes. After Charles Martel's victory at the Battle of Poitiers in 732 sent the Muslim invaders back south of the Pyrenees, the Umayyad dynasty consolidated its rule in al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), forging a religiously tolerant, intellectually sophisticated, socially diverse and economically dynamic culture whose achievements would eventually seed the Renaissance. Meanwhile, the virtually powerless Roman popes joined forces with ambitious Frankish leaders, from Pippin the Short to Charlemagne, to create the template for feudal Europe: a 'religiously intolerant, intellectually impoverished, socially calcified, and economically primitive' society.' The collapse of the Umayyad dynasty and the rise of local leaders who embraced Muslim fundamentalism as a means to power destroyed the vitality of al-Andalus, paving the way for the Crusades and the Christian reconquista of Spain.

Lewis clear-sightedly lays out the strengths and weaknesses of both worlds, though his sympathies are clearly with cosmopolitan doctor/philosophers like Ibn Rushd and Musa ibn Maymun (better known in the West as Averros and Maimonides), who represented 'cultural eclecticism and creedal forbearance,' sadly out of place in the increasingly fanatical 12th century. 8 pages of color illus., 4 maps." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"The title of David Levering Lewis' surprising new book, 'God's Crucible,' brings to mind another piece of ceramic phrasing, Colin Powell's warning to President Bush about invading Iraq: 'You break it. You own it.' The people and the land of Iraq that we now own as occupiers can be counted among the shards, but the invasion and occupation have also wreaked havoc on a culture, a country's history, and... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review)

Review:

"This thoughtful overview sheds welcome light on an increasingly relevant period of history....A work of clear-eyed scholarship." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[A] fruitful and frequently overlooked period of cultural interaction." Booklist

Review:

"Lewis is not a historian of Islam. This gives him the freedom to pursue big questions with impunity — and he does this quite well. But it also leads him into many surprising errors....In the end, these errors do not seriously mar the powerful thrust of his narrative. His darting juxtapositions of dynasties and of cultures give a vivid sense of the furious complexities of the age." New York Times

Review:

"[D]espite an exceedingly thick plot line that presumes significant historical knowledge, Lewis succeeds in creating what scholars like to call a 'relational history' of two great civilizations." Boston Globe

Book News Annotation:

The early confrontations between Western culture and the newly-born Islamic movement have been studied by medievalists for some time. It is a complex subject, and conclusions vary according to the time and place studied; but Lewis, who is known for his fine work on African-American history, has ignored these subtleties in this book, ostensibly a corrective to recent polemics attacking Islam. The book is riddled with inaccuracies and unsubstantiated assumptions. Long discarded by scholars, the views he presents of Europe in the sixth and seventh centuries are of backwardness and barbarism, while Muslim Spain basked in a Golden Age of religious toleration and enlightenment. The few primary sources consulted are in translation, and secondary sources are a mish-mash of popular histories and out-of-date material, along with a few recent works. The result is a non-historically-based polemic. Scholars will know the difference; the general reading public might not. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Synopsis:

"A furiously complex age; a powerful narrative."--, Editor's Choice

Synopsis:

Hailed by critics as an essential book, God's Crucible is a bold, new interpretation of Islamic Spain and the birth of Europe from one of our greatest historians. David Levering Lewis's narrative, filled with accounts of some of the greatest battles in world history, reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished--a beacon of cooperation and tolerance--while proto-Europe floundered in opposition.

At the beginning of the eighth century, the Arabs brought a momentous revolution in power, religion, and culture to Dark Ages Europe. David Levering Lewis's masterful history begins with the fall of the Persian and Roman empires, followed by the rise of the prophet Muhammad and the creation of Muslim Spain. Five centuries of engagement between the Muslim imperium and an emerging Europe followed, from the Muslim conquest of Visigoth Hispania in 711 to Latin Christendom's declaration of unconditional warfare on the Caliphate in 1215. Lewis's narrative, filled with accounts of some of the greatest battles in world history, reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished--a beacon of cooperation and tolerance between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity--while proto-Europe, defining itself in opposition to Islam, made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war, and slavery. A cautionary tale, God's Crucible provides a new interpretation of world-altering events whose influence remains as current as today's headlines.

About the Author

David Levering Lewis is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the two-volume biography of W. E. B. Du Bois. He has been awarded numerous prizes and fellowships, including a MacArthur Fellowship. Twice a finalist for the National Book Award, Lewis lives in Manhattan and Stanfordville, New York, with his wife.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780393064728
Author:
Lewis, David Levering
Publisher:
W. W. Norton & Company
Author:
Lewis, David L.
Subject:
Middle East - General
Subject:
Civilization, medieval
Subject:
History
Subject:
Medieval
Subject:
Europe - General
Subject:
Islamic Studies
Subject:
Middle East
Subject:
Europe History 476-1492.
Subject:
World History - Medieval and Renaissance
Publication Date:
20080131
Binding:
Hardcover
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
8 pages of color illustrations; 4 maps
Pages:
512
Dimensions:
9.6 x 6.5 x 1.6 in 1.915 lb

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Sociology » Islamic Studies
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » Medieval
History and Social Science » World History » European History General
History and Social Science » World History » Medieval and Renaissance

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 New Hardcover
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Product details 512 pages W. W. Norton & Company - English 9780393064728 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "This superb portrayal by NYU history professor Lewis of the fraught half-millennium during which Islam and Christianity uneasily coexisted on the continent just beginning to be known as Europe displays the formidable scholarship and magisterial ability to synthesize vast quantities of material that won him Pulitzer Prizes for both volumes of W.E.B. Du Bois.

In characteristically elegant prose, Lewis shows Islam arising in the power vacuum left by the death throes of the empires of newly Christianized Rome and Persian Iran, then sweeping out of the Middle East as a fighting religion, with jihad inspiring cultural pride in hitherto marginalized Arab tribes. After Charles Martel's victory at the Battle of Poitiers in 732 sent the Muslim invaders back south of the Pyrenees, the Umayyad dynasty consolidated its rule in al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), forging a religiously tolerant, intellectually sophisticated, socially diverse and economically dynamic culture whose achievements would eventually seed the Renaissance. Meanwhile, the virtually powerless Roman popes joined forces with ambitious Frankish leaders, from Pippin the Short to Charlemagne, to create the template for feudal Europe: a 'religiously intolerant, intellectually impoverished, socially calcified, and economically primitive' society.' The collapse of the Umayyad dynasty and the rise of local leaders who embraced Muslim fundamentalism as a means to power destroyed the vitality of al-Andalus, paving the way for the Crusades and the Christian reconquista of Spain.

Lewis clear-sightedly lays out the strengths and weaknesses of both worlds, though his sympathies are clearly with cosmopolitan doctor/philosophers like Ibn Rushd and Musa ibn Maymun (better known in the West as Averros and Maimonides), who represented 'cultural eclecticism and creedal forbearance,' sadly out of place in the increasingly fanatical 12th century. 8 pages of color illus., 4 maps." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)

"Review" by , "This thoughtful overview sheds welcome light on an increasingly relevant period of history....A work of clear-eyed scholarship."
"Review" by , "[A] fruitful and frequently overlooked period of cultural interaction."
"Review" by , "Lewis is not a historian of Islam. This gives him the freedom to pursue big questions with impunity — and he does this quite well. But it also leads him into many surprising errors....In the end, these errors do not seriously mar the powerful thrust of his narrative. His darting juxtapositions of dynasties and of cultures give a vivid sense of the furious complexities of the age."
"Review" by , "[D]espite an exceedingly thick plot line that presumes significant historical knowledge, Lewis succeeds in creating what scholars like to call a 'relational history' of two great civilizations."
"Synopsis" by , "A furiously complex age; a powerful narrative."--, Editor's Choice
"Synopsis" by , Hailed by critics as an essential book, God's Crucible is a bold, new interpretation of Islamic Spain and the birth of Europe from one of our greatest historians. David Levering Lewis's narrative, filled with accounts of some of the greatest battles in world history, reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished--a beacon of cooperation and tolerance--while proto-Europe floundered in opposition.

At the beginning of the eighth century, the Arabs brought a momentous revolution in power, religion, and culture to Dark Ages Europe. David Levering Lewis's masterful history begins with the fall of the Persian and Roman empires, followed by the rise of the prophet Muhammad and the creation of Muslim Spain. Five centuries of engagement between the Muslim imperium and an emerging Europe followed, from the Muslim conquest of Visigoth Hispania in 711 to Latin Christendom's declaration of unconditional warfare on the Caliphate in 1215. Lewis's narrative, filled with accounts of some of the greatest battles in world history, reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished--a beacon of cooperation and tolerance between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity--while proto-Europe, defining itself in opposition to Islam, made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war, and slavery. A cautionary tale, God's Crucible provides a new interpretation of world-altering events whose influence remains as current as today's headlines.

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