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God's Battalions: The Case for the…
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God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades

by Rodney Stark

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Stark is right in saying that the crusades were not unprovoked. This, however, seems to be the most salient point he makes. On the whole, this work is quite tendentious. Stark relies too heavily on secondary sources. Furthermore, he uses his (limited) primary sources inconsistently and irresponsibly. This is a decidedly polemical pseudo-history that pushes well beyond what the evidence allows. With this attempt to offer a corrective reading of the crusades, Stark falls well short of his goal and probably does more harm than good. ( )
2 vote swaers | Sep 9, 2011 |
If you're looking for some good history on the crusades, without all the hate towards Europe, the West, or Christianity, this is a great place to start. Stark lays out the case that the crusades were in many ways a war not unlike so many others, but with a different motivation than many. He argues that Europe was responding to invasion by the Turks & Muslims; that the battle conduct of the crusaders was similar to the norm for the era (not unusually brutal); the Muslims were not somehow more enlightened or civilized than the Europeans (& thus deserving of our sympathy); and that those who went on the crusades did so at great personal or familial cost, not out of some desire for plunder. While he does this, he does not degrade the Muslims nor place the crusaders on a pedestal. He is fair, but realistic about both sides strengths and weaknesses. The result is a much more favorable treatment of the crusaders than many may be used to, but he is, in a sense, merely righting the balance. Eleven pages of bibliography allow you to follow-up on and check Stark's claims and while the book is written at a level that reads very easily, his conclusions are documented and he kindly includes end-notes. ( )
  deferredreward | Feb 12, 2011 |
I thought that the book was well done for what it was. This never was to be an extremely indepth historical text but rather a "case for the crusades". Over the years I have heard many who claim (in conversation) that we are to blame for the muslims hating us because of the crusades but I have always considered them off base. The muslims had been expanding and taking over christian lands for centuries and it was this aggression which finally created the need to strike back. This is what Mr. Stark shows well enough in his book and I applaud his stance. I am also happy to see him reiterate the need to view the extreme violence and massacres of the time not through the lenses of today's opinions but in their historical views of their own time. I find that I, in conversations, have to repeatedly remind people who criticize past events that they have to do this exact thing. Overall I would say its a good quick read and worthwhile to get a common sense view on the events. ( )
  Loptsson | Jun 14, 2010 |
I'm not sure he made a case for the crusades, but I'm also not familiar with the argument he's trying to counteract. In the introduction he claims that it has become commonplace for Western historians to be critical of the Crusades as an unprovoked, military action against a peaceful and more cultured people. I believe this is the claim he is arguing against, I believe he does a fine job. There are numerous citations to previous research to aid his argument. In fact, he claims early on that he did little direct research in this area, but instead relied on previous historians. ( )
  lanes_3 | Feb 7, 2010 |
Stark argues that the crusades were not unprovoked, and were not a colonial episode. I thought his
arguments in support of these claims were reasonable. He asserts that the cultural level of the crusaders
was on a par with that of the muslims, but here his argument is weak - he claims that
arab culture was really the culture of its subject peoples, but many of these were muslim.
He also tries to justify the sack of Constantinople, on the grounds that this sort of event
was not unknown at the time. ( )
1 vote cgodsil | Jan 25, 2010 |
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In God's Battalions, award-winning author Rodney Stark takes on the long-held view that the Crusades were the first round of European colonialism, conducted for land, loot, and converts by barbarian Christians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. Instead, Stark argues that the Crusades were the first military response to Muslim terrorist aggession.… (more)

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