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God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of…
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God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 (original 2008; edition 2018)

by David Levering Lewis (Author)

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466938,389 (3.6)15
In this panoramic history of Islamic culture in early Europe, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian re-examines what we thought we knew. Lewis reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished--a beacon of cooperation and tolerance between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity--while proto-Europe made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war, and slavery.--From publisher description.… (more)
Member:jSummer
Title:God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215
Authors:David Levering Lewis (Author)
Info:Liveright (2018), Edition: 1, 528 pages
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God's Crucible by David Levering Lewis (2008)

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Mr Lewis’s argument would have been better introduced as an essay. In making his case, the book assumes that one is unfamiliar with much of the period, and only summarizes rather than providing any depth. In cases where interesting background is provided as simple assertions, there aren’t specific footnotes that would let the reader follow these threads.

Skip to the bibliography and find something else. ( )
  cwcoxjr | Sep 5, 2019 |
A good well written history from the birth of Islam to its sence in Spain in the 13th Century. The white hats and black are dispersed fairly evenly between Muslims and Christians. And Christian society definitely benefited from the Muslim renaissance that occurred in Spain. ( )
  charlie68 | Oct 28, 2014 |
This book is a welcome corrective to the standard Eurocentric account of the Middle Ages. Lewis writes the dense prose of a mandarin historian, with magisterial periods and ornate formulations, but James Reston Jr. was overly harsh when he spoke of "stilted academic prose" in his review in the Washington Post. However, God's Crucible, Lewis's first foray into pre-modern history, leaves something to be desired. The notes for this extraordinarily far-ranging work show that supporting documentation (largely secondary sources; journal articles are rare) is thin. Footnotes sometimes do not correspond to the text.

More disturbingly, Lewis often chooses an interpretation that hews to a predetermined narrative and does not deeply scrutinize the historical record or interpretative debates among historians. Lewis is, in fact, a traditionalist historian, not a 'mythistorian' at all, pace the title of Ch. 7. Though he decenters the narrative, he does not allow postmodernist indeterminacy to trouble the confident progress of his history, which depends on traditional political history and is intent on inventing a new myth, one that instructs Westerners about their indebtedness to Muslim civilization and about the ruthlessly blood-soaked origins of Christian Europe. A brutal, uncouth Charlemagne contrasts with an enlightened, suave 'Abd al-Rahman I.

Many reviewers have concluded that Lewis "overstates his case," as Ed Voves said in the California Literary Review, and it's true. Unpleasant traits of Frankish leaders are unrelentingly emphasized, those of Muslim leaders are universally softened or excused (e.g. "Crucifixions and expulsions were regrettable aspects of [al-Hakam's] nation-building. Enlightened despotism was the alternative to rule by the consensus of classes or rule by the oligarchy of affluent familes . . ." [311]).

Lewis has also produced a text bereft of historical consciousness to an extent that seems deliberate. His narrative is replete with anachronistic attributions of mental states and motivations. Lewis imagines premodern leaders were preoccupied with "grand strategy" (253, another anachronism). Lewis also has a taste for anachronistic metaphors as well—"speed bump," "conveyer belt," etc. All these devices are designed to reach the contemporary reader.

In short, Lewis is very much on a mission, and while it may be a laudable one, his methods do not always stand up to scrutiny. The book has, unsurprisingly, been skewered by critics on the right like "Fjordman," the anonymous but influential Norwegian Islamaphobe, who devoted a long critique to the book when it came out in mid-2008. Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times was also hard on the book, complaining that Lewis is "in thrall to an idealized Umayyad Spain." But Kwame Anthony Appiah gave the book a more favorable review in the New York Review of Books, calling it "rich and engaging" with an "uplifting message." ( )
  jensenmk82 | Dec 13, 2009 |
Describes the interaction between Islam and Europe
from 570 - 1215, focussing on Spain and Western Europe. He tries to write well. ( )
  cgodsil | Oct 17, 2009 |
Excellent book, about a subject - dark ages Europe - which is little written on. It is a good look at how Europe developed - or didn't develop - after the collapse of the Roman empire, and how Islam came into being and expanded. Unfortunately, Mr. Lewis wrote what are in effect two books. The first, better one, covers the period up to just after the death of Charlemagne. The second, shorter, and not so good book, is a lightning-fast survey of the next 400 years. During these years, Islamic Spain declined, and Christian Europe inexorably rose, and we would like to know more about that. However, it appears that David Lewis is seduced by the cultural high tide of Islamic Spain during the 7- and 800s, and would like to forget the slow decline of Islam, both in Spain and elsewhere. In the end, the lasting cultural contribution of Al-Andalus consisted of moving a body of Indian, Greek, and Roman to the West, where it was put to good use, while Islam kept fighting itself and (contrary to received wisdom) its religious minorities, until it was culturally and politically irrelevant. One interesting feature is that despite the protestations of the author that Islam was tolerant of the other people of the book, Jews get massacred quite frequently, starting with Mohammed and moving on into North Africa and Spain. These massacres would do justice to pre-Reformation Catholicism, and tend to make me sceptical of Islamic "toleration."
Overall a book worth reading, mostly crisp, well written, and pitched at a level that does not insult the reader. ( )
1 vote RobertP | Aug 15, 2009 |
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In this panoramic history of Islamic culture in early Europe, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian re-examines what we thought we knew. Lewis reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished--a beacon of cooperation and tolerance between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity--while proto-Europe made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war, and slavery.--From publisher description.

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W.W. Norton

2 editions of this book were published by W.W. Norton.

Editions: 0393064727, 0393333566

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