Worth reading: God's battalions

mercredi 26 mai 2010 ·

I recently commited myself to reading God's battalions: the case for the crusades by Rodney Stark, historian at Baylor University. The book is a thorougly enjoyable reading with a light and very elegant prose.

True, sometimes I feel that the author is trying to settle a grudge with other historians who dismiss the importance and contributions of Catholicism in general and that it is often dragged into the mud of debate for unjust reasons. The idea is not that one should side with the idea that "The Church Was Nothing But Good To Mankind Since Its Inception", it is rather about clarifying certain facts of history and put in perspective so as to make a fair judgment. To that extent Stark suceeds marveloussly with regards to the crusades.

It is often forgotten that the Crusades were not an act of selfish powergrab by western countries but rather a reaction to centuries of muslim incursions in Europe, the mistreatment of pilgrims and the retreat of Byzantium in the front of islamdom. He also points to the strong piousness of men who went to the extent of selling their domains in order to take the cross and indebting themselves tremendously. It is also forgotten that the accounts of destruction during the first crusade are grossly exagerated through tales that speak of Jerusalem after its capture as a river of blood where the blood of the massacred would reach the hips of the knights. It is also forgotten that most of the so-called muslim "enlightment" was actually produced by non-muslims (including christians) who were glad to see the arrival of the crusaders. Often forgotten are the massacres in Antioch, Edessa and Hattin where the muslims including Saladin were nothing less than brutal. Stark gives us a magnficient counterweight to all that we have learned about the Crusades.

Sometimes, he goes a bit too far when, for example, he describes the destruction of the Library of Alexandria upon its capture by the advancing muslim armies forgetting to emphasize the fact that most of the library (there never was one library per se by the way) had been destroyed during the invasion by Julius Ceaser and most of its manuscripts lost under order by Archbishop Theophilus of Alexandria in the 4th century. But on the whole, the main contribution of Stark is superb and breathtaking. A very good introduction on the crusades.

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Bryan Breguet est candidat au doctorat en sciences économiques à l’université de Colombie-Britannique. D’origine Suisse, il a passé les cinq dernières années au Québec au cours desquelles il s’est engagé en politique provinciale malgré le fait qu’il ne possédait pas encore la citoyenneté canadienne. Il détient un B.Sc en économie et politique ainsi qu’une maitrise en sciences économiques de l’université de Montréal. Récipiendaire de plusieurs prix d’excellences et bourses, il connaît bien les méthodes quantitatives et leurs applications à la politique.

Vincent Geloso holds a master’s degree in economic history from the London School of Economics, with a focus on business cycles, international development, labor markets in preindustrial Europe and the new institutional economics. His research work examined the economic history of the province of Quebec from 1920 to 1960. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the Université de Montréal. He has also studied in the United States at the Washington Centre for Academic Seminars and Internships. Mr. Geloso has been an intern for the Prime Minister’s cabinet in Ottawa and for the National Post. He has also been the recipient of a fellowship from the Institute for Humane Studies and an international mobility bursary from the Ministère des Relations internationales du Québec. Currently, he is an economist at the Montreal Economic Institute.

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