Rodney Stark has done it again; he has taken 'common knowledge' and turned it on its head with characteristic adeptness and smooth prose. ApplyIng his great learning to the history of the Crusades, Stark shows that they were not early and unprovoked attempts at greedy Western colonialism, but instances of pious 'penitential warfare' in the Augustianian just war tradition. They were the reactions of the pious to the religious colonialism of Islam in the tradition of Mohommed, which conquered pagan and Zorastrian Arabia and Mesopotamia, Hindu and Buddist India, and Christian Asia Minor and North Africa before they were for a time beaten back by the Christian Crusaders. For a masterful popular history of this time, this book is a must read (or perhaps, must listen)!
The historical research (historical reference from secondary sources) in this book isn't bad, while offering no new insight, the historical content is nonetheless, worth reading.
Having said that, there are many better books/lectures on crusade than this one, the unabashed anti-islam polemnic in this book borders on offensive, one can write good balanced history without resorting to bias. I seriously recommend Thomas F. Madden's Modern Scholar lecture "Understanding the crusade" before reading this.
Provides an in-depth analysis for the case of the Crusades. Something that has been lacking for many years in academia quite a compelling case unless the thought of having your wives and daughters in Berkus is appealing
I will not say this book is uninformative. It is, overall, a useful summary of SOME events leading to the Crusades and a description of battles, timetable, etc.
But the author's main purpose seem to be to counter some idiotic statements and actions by some in the west "apologizing" for the Crusades or saying that there was no "justification" for them -- as though the Crusades could be apologized for or needed justifications. The trouble is that, in the process of countering this foolishness, the author engages in what can only be called "spin" -- presenting questionable statements, half-truths or opinions for fact.
For example, in trying to say that the Islamic world did not support new learning because what learning there was was being done by the peoples the Moslems conquered. But the fact is that such learning WAS occurring, unlike in the West. The author says that the European Dark Ages were really not so dark because the invention of the plough, cross-bow, and other technical developments took. A discussion of the advantages of the plough includes more grain, thus more food, thus a larger and healthier population. He does not mention the global warming that occurred during this time that probably played greater role in increased food. He discusses massacres of monks (Byzantine) and pilgrims by Moslems but doesnt discuss, for example, the reported massacre of 2000 Muslim prisoners by Richard the Lionhearted or the killings of Europeans by the Byzantines in Constantinople in 1182.
There are many other discussable or equivocal statements, from the importance and use of crossbows to the killings of Jews by the Crusaders (which to me sounds minimized by the author when they were a horrible occurrance) at the starts of the Crusades. This has to be counted as "spin".
A perhaps useful book to start discussion, but not one to be taken as accurate in its particulars.
It was not so much about the crusades and the battles fought it was about the case for the crusades...