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


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ISBN13: 9780231146241
ISBN10: 0231146248
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The Crusades were penitential war-pilgrimages fought in the Levant and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as in North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Baltic region, Hungary, the Balkans, and Western Europe. Beginning in the eleventh century and ending as late as the eighteenth, these holy wars were waged against Muslims and other enemies of the Church, enlisting generations of laymen and laywomen to fight for the sake of Christendom.

Crusading features prominently in today's religio-political hostilities, yet the perceptions of these wars held by Arab nationalists, pan-Islamists, and many in the West have been deeply distorted by the language and imagery of nineteenth-century European imperialism. With this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith returns to the actual story of the Crusades, explaining why and where they were fought and how deeply their narratives and symbolism became embedded in popular Catholic thought and devotional life.

From this history, Riley-Smith traces the legacy of the Crusades into modern times, specifically within the attitudes of European imperialists and colonialists and within the beliefs of twentieth-century Muslims. Europeans fashioned an interpretation of the Crusades from the writings of Walter Scott and a French contemporary, Joseph-Fran?ois Michaud. Scott portrayed Islamic societies as forward-thinking, while casting Christian crusaders as culturally backward and often morally corrupt. Michaud, in contrast, glorified crusading, and his followers used its imagery to illuminate imperial adventures.

These depictions have had a profound influence on contemporary Western opinion, as well as on Muslim attitudes toward their past and present. Whether regarded as a valid expression of Christianity's divine enterprise or condemned as a weapon of empire, crusading has been a powerful rhetorical tool for centuries. In order to understand the preoccupations of Islamist jihadis and the character of Western discourse on the Middle East, Riley-Smith argues, we must understand how images of crusading were formed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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John Lowe, November 24, 2012 (view all comments by John Lowe)

This surprisingly brief work, numbering just eighty pages in length by one the most well known authors of Crusader History, is likewise one of the clearest and most eloquent analysis of the past and present view of the crusade movement. Taken from series of lectures that he presented at Columbia University in 2007, Dr. Riley-Smith attempts to contextualize each of his title's three subjects in a way that transcend the medieval events up to the present.

While this work covers some well known ground, addressing the connection of Christian violence justified by medieval minds in conjunction with St. Augustine's Contra Faustum Manichaeum, Riley-Smith reminds his readers of the world in which people lived, much more violent than modern day critics would like to imagine. The focus is not on Christian Europe alone, for which an argument can be made that by far it was a Christianity not as recognizable today in modern Protestant and even Catholic circles, but that even the east and the worlds of Syria and Egypt were not so much more advanced in their ideas about war or a chivalrous outlook.

The major contribution of this work to thinking on conflicts between western and eastern people and ideas, lie in the special point Riley-Smith makes that crusading and the notion that justified violence for religious or ethical reason is dead, is simply not true. Chapter three of the book entitled Crusading and Imperialism, address 19th century evidence that the concept of war for the right reasons, in other words a crusading endeavor focused on revitalized military orders, was not altogether dead. Turning to the fourth chapter entitled Crusading and Islam, Riley-Smith illustrates a resurgence of perceived past crusader oppression as justification in the modern world for Islamic resistance, even acts of terrorism, based on a concept of a great civilization destroyed and humiliated by a western consortium of rival powers.

Riley-Smith is as I have said, eloquent and conveys his point easily, and this work is definitely a short and accessible read for anyone intrigued by a question demanding explanation; how doe the crusades impact today's modern world. More than an attempt to illuminate, Dr. Riley-Smith ends with a note of warning that reminds the reader that war and atrocities of violence which seem so foreign in the modern and advanced society, are indeed not so far away as we think. Ethical war has "manifested itself recently in wars waged in the names of imperialism, nationalism, Marxism, fascism, anticolonialism, humanitarianism, and even liberal democracy." This work is a call for peace and rational thinking, only understood when a modern world can see the suffering caused otherwise.
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Product Details

Riley-smith, Jonathan
Columbia University Press
Riley-Smith, Jonathan Simon Christop
Riley-Smith, Jonathan
Christianity and other religions
Comparative Religion
Islam - General
Military - General
Christianity - History - General
Islam -- Relations -- Christianity.
Military-General History
Bampton Lectures in America
Publication Date:
8.30x5.70x.70 in. .60 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Military » General History
History and Social Science » Western Civilization » Medieval
History and Social Science » World History » Medieval and Renaissance
Religion » Christianity » Church History » General
Religion » Comparative Religion » General
Religion » Islam » General

The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Bampton Lectures in America) New Hardcover
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Product details 125 pages Columbia University Press - English 9780231146241 Reviews:
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