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God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades

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Overview

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. To the contrary, Stark argues that the Crusades were the first military response to unwarranted Muslim terrorist aggression.

Stark reviews the history of the seven major Crusades from 1095 to 1291, demonstrating that the Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations, centuries of bloody attempts to colonize the West, and sudden attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places. Although the Crusades were initiated by a plea from the pope, Stark argues that this had nothing to do with any elaborate design of the Christian world to convert all Muslims to Christianity by force of arms. Given current tensions in the Middle East and terrorist attacks around the world, Stark's views are a thought-provoking contribution to our understanding and are sure to spark debate.

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Editorial Reviews

Philip Jenkins
“GOD’S BATTALIONS launches a frontal assault on the comfortable myths that scholars have popularized about the crusades. The results are startling. His greatest achievement is to make us see the crusaders on their own terms.”
Jeffrey Burton Russell
“At last, a convincing, balanced book on the Crusades, far from the recent unsophisticated and ideological diatribes against them as “A Bad Thing.” Rodney Stark demonstrates that the Crusades were neither unprovoked nor colonialist. Here is yet another rich and readable book from this thoughtful and distinguished author.”
Christian Century
“In God’s Battalions, Stark provides an account of the Crusades perfectly fitted for the Fox News audience. Clearly this is not the politically correct version of the Crusades, and that is fine: there is little that was politically correct about the Crusades in the first place.”
Christian Scholar’s Review
“Stark’s style is clear and direct. He sets the pace of narrative masterfully...The result is a good read...Christian readers should welcome Stark’s affirmation of the best in scholarship, both old and new, and his willingness to argue a controversial position.”
United Methodist Reporter
“[Stark’s] new book, God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, gives historic and sociological evidence for a fresh assessment of the Crusades.”
Relevant Magazine
“Rodney Stark turns what we ‘know’ about history on its head.”
The Catholic Thing
“[Stark] makes the case [for the crusades] with admirable frankness and flair.”
New Oxford Review
“Stark’s clear, factual narrative offers larger-than-life characters…. [his] works are an encouraging corrective to the anti-Western history routinely taught in our schools.”
Catholic San Francisco
“[God’s Battalions] avoid[s] the black-and-white nonsense of current secular thinkers, who condemn the Crusades as part of their condemnation of the Catholic Church and of much later Western imperialism. …Stark demonstrate[s] a more sophisticated view of history, religion and culture.”
National Catholic Register
“[God’s Battalions] rewards a careful reading, and not only because the story itself is sogripping, with tales of courage and desperation, outsized characters, and fate of cultures hanging in the balance. …Masterful… sets the record straight.”
Booklist (starred review)
“An excitingly readable distillation of the new, revisionist Crusades historiography.”
Christianity Today
“[Stark] wants to challenge the prevailing television pundit-level misunderstanding of the Crusades, and in this, his accessible, enjoyably argued book succeeds.”
Christian Scholar's Review
"Stark’s style is clear and direct. He sets the pace of narrative masterfully...The result is a good read...Christian readers should welcome Stark’s affirmation of the best in scholarship, both old and new, and his willingness to argue a controversial position."
The World Magazine
“Stark’s wonderfully readable prose and politically incorrect conclusions... point us to the question—Will 21st-century infiltration lead to surrender or revival?—on which Europe’s future hinges.”
A+ rating - CBN.com
"Award-winning author and sociologist Rodney Stark humbly goes to war against the many politically correct myths surrounding the history of the Crusades in this well-researched and easy-to-read academic masterpiece. Stark proves himself once again as a historical myth-buster."
Booklist
"An excitingly readable distillation of the new, revisionist Crusades historiography."
A+ rating CBN.com
“Award-winning author and sociologist Rodney Stark humbly goes to war against the many politically correct myths surrounding the history of the Crusades in this well-researched and easy-to-read academic masterpiece. Stark proves himself once again as a historical myth-buster.”
Christian Scholar’s Review
“Stark’s style is clear and direct. He sets the pace of narrative masterfully...The result is a good read...Christian readers should welcome Stark’s affirmation of the best in scholarship, both old and new, and his willingness to argue a controversial position.”
Jack Kilcrease
“In God’s Battalions Princeton sociologist of religion Rodney Stark seeks to dispel myths about the medieval Crusades and replace them with a more factual account…The historiographic arguments made by Stark regarding the antecedents and consequences of the Crusades are very convincing.”
Christianity Today
“[Stark] wants to challenge the prevailing television pundit-level misunderstanding of the Crusades, and in this, his accessible, enjoyably argued book succeeds.”
New Oxford Review
“Stark’s clear, factual narrative offers larger-than-life characters…. [his] works are an encouraging corrective to the anti-Western history routinely taught in our schools.”
National Catholic Register
“[God’s Battalions] rewards a careful reading, and not only because the story itself is sogripping, with tales of courage and desperation, outsized characters, and fate of cultures hanging in the balance. …Masterful… sets the record straight.”
United Methodist Reporter
“[Stark’s] new book, God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, gives historic and sociological evidence for a fresh assessment of the Crusades.”
Booklist (starred review)
An excitingly readable distillation of the new, revisionist Crusades historiography.
Relevant Magazine
Rodney Stark turns what we “know” about history on its head.
The Catholic Thing
“[Stark] makes the case [for the crusades] with admirable frankness and flair.”
Catholic San Francisco
“[God’s Battalions] avoid[s] the black-and-white nonsense of current secular thinkers, who condemn the Crusades as part of their condemnation of the Catholic Church and of much later Western imperialism. …Stark demonstrate[s] a more sophisticated view of history, religion and culture.”
Christian Scholar's Review
“Stark’s style is clear and direct. He sets the pace of narrative masterfully...The result is a good read...Christian readers should welcome Stark’s affirmation of the best in scholarship, both old and new, and his willingness to argue a controversial position.”
The World Magazine
“Stark’s wonderfully readable prose and politically incorrect conclusions... point us to the question—Will 21st-century infiltration lead to surrender or revival?—on which Europe’s future hinges.”
Publishers Weekly
It always seems counterintuitive to moderns that warfare and religion can be consistent. Ideally, followers of the prince of peace are to avoid the sword and shield. Clearly, this has not always been the case. Frequently in the crosshairs of critics are the Christian wars against Muslims known as the Crusades, commonly viewed as the birth of European imperialism and the forced spread of Christianity. But what if we've had it all wrong? What if the Crusades were a justifiable response to a strong and determined foe? Stark, a prominent sociologist and author of 27 books on history and religion, has penned a compelling argument that these bloody encounters had less to do with spreading Christianity than with responding to an ever more dangerous enemy—the emerging Islamic empire. There is much to be learned here. Filled with fascinating historical glimpses of monks and Templars, priests and pilgrims, kings and contemplatives, Stark pulls it all together and challenges us to reconsider our view of the Crusades. (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"Filled with fascinating historical glimpses of monks and Templars, priests and pilgrims, kings and contemplatives, Stark pulls it all together and challenges us to reconsider our view of the Crusades." —-Publishers Weekly
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061582615
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/29/2009
  • Pages: 276
  • Sales rank: 391,139
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Rodney Stark is the Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University. His thirty books on the history and sociology of religion include The Rise of Christianity, Cities of God, For the Glory of God, Discovering God, and The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success. Stark received his Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 37 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(20)

4 Star

(5)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 37 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 23, 2009

    Interesting

    Finally a much needed "Pro-Western" approach to studying the Crusades. Stark writes clearly and crisply on the subject and leaves no doubt as to his professional opinion on the subject. Time and again he comes directly to the point. In some cases this comes across as axe-grinding or even bias, yet even so he makes a strong and valid case. I gave him a 4 on the research because at times it is difficult to determine from the footnote format just how well he researched the subject on both sides of the fence.

    Content wise Stark concentrates primarily on the 1st Crusade and the events that led up to it. He broadbrushes the rest of the Crusades making several debatable generalizations. Militarily he does not go into a great deal of detail on the battles. He includes a brief synopsis of the Military Orders.

    All this aside, it is a good read that brings up many points and issues sure to spark debate both about the past and the present situation in the Middle East. If you are at all interested in the Crusades and history you should read this book. At the very least it will help balance the scales. Enjoy!

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 5, 2010

    Illuminating...

    Well what can I say? This book provides an intellectual 'reboot' for those who know no better than what the West has fed itself over the past century about the Crusades. He provides historical data that provides the overview, the historical context of what was going on in the Middle East and Western Europe, showing that the Crusades did not spring up for base greed and without provocation. It was a response to centuries of Muslim aggression, including the desecration of holy sites in Jerusalem that were very important to Christendom. There's even a solid explanation for why Constantinople was sacked, something which I'd forgotten about. And, it must be noted, the rosy veil that's surrounded Saladin's reputation for centuries is pulled back. (He wasn't that wonderful a character, although worse generals and rulers are a' plenty in that part of history.)

    This is not a rah-rah book for Westerners, however it is an attempt to show the circumstances of the times in the name of knowledge and balance. It's a good read that isn't so long that it bores a lay person. I'd recommend God's Battalions to others who are truly interested in learning something, as opposed to just accepting whatever's fed to them in the news. Read and decide for yourself.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2010

    Very interesting book

    The author looks at the crusades from a differing point of view than most current history books. Stark's facts and conclusions provide the reader with an intelligent argument to consider. Well written and definintely worth reading.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    What you didn't learn in school

    This book is very well researched and sheds some light on a usually very one-sided part in history. Everyone knows what the crusades were and who fought, but the reason why they were fought is usually not mentioned. The crusades were not an early example of European colonialism, nor a means of forcing non-christians to convert under pain of death. Saladin was not the chivalrous character that he would be painted as centuries later during the "enlightenment", nor were the crusaders blood thirsty peasants in search of plunder or land. This is the perfect book for those who want to learn about what the crusades really were, not about what Voltaire tried to portray them as.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 20, 2009

    Leave history to historians

    This author is completely off the mark.
    He should stick to his specialty, or at least
    consult some historians before writing this
    kind of nonsense. If the point of this book
    was to elucidate the societal differences
    between the European (read Catholic) west and
    other empires of the Middle Ages, this account
    is sorely lacking in both depth and accuracy.
    This is not the quality we would expect from
    someone who teaches advanced studies... F grade.

    2 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 21, 2009

    Are you joking?

    The author of this book is a sociologist, not an historian of the Middle East, and certainly not of the Arabs or Islamic world. He may know Christian history somewhat, but he clearly has to depend on others for the Arab-Islamic side of the equation. Probably, if you are only able to read the Roman/Byzantine version of the event, you will get some idea like this, but the patent foolishness of it is plain.

    To wit:
    By 1099, the so-called "Islamic empire" was in tatters, with 5 or 6 kingdoms all vying for power. True, the Seljuks were on the offensive against Byzantium...in Anatolia, not the "Holy Land"! The first Crusade was mounted to support the Byzantines, and then diverted itself to attack Jerusalem. It was all downhill after that.

    What we see here is yet another reading back of contemporary issues and conflicts upon the past, a past that this author barely knows anything about. You can see it clearly in the review: the reference to "unwarranted Muslim terrorist aggression".

    I would ask Mr. Stark, who historically have been responsible for more "terrorism" and "aggression" than the Christian world?

    2 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 27, 2012

    The other side

    As evidenced by the 1 and 2 star reviewers here, its obvious there are some people in this country and others who refuse to read history.
    While this book is one sided, thats what its intended to be, ie to give the Western perspective, that being the REAL western perspective and not the apologist distortion of it.
    He gives specific evidence, dates, places, names, and sources to back up his statements (unlike ANY of the 1-2 star reviewers).
    I have rechecked most of them and havent found any faults or distortions in his statements. Its important that people read this book with an open but skeptical mind. This book gives one side of the story, I believe a fairly accurate one. You shouldnt read it alone though as there are several primary sources to vaildate the book and refute some of it.
    In general a great book to start out with on learning about the real crusades and start your own research on what really happened.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012

    Outstanding

    Challenging thecurrent myths about the crusades

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2011

    Great book

    Its nice to see history thats not watered down by liberal ideology and opinion

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2011

    Outstanding insight

    God's Battalions is an outstanding book that a provides an in-depth yet exciting look at a very critical period in our history! After reading this book you might find yourself looking to take a trip to the middle east. Well written and certainly a page turner!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2010

    Typical Starks!!!

    Excellent research. Very well thought out data and conclusions. A welcome addition to the field of accurate research in history.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2014

    The case for the Crusades is well made

    Read the truth about the players, their motivations, and their ultimate fates in this multinational, 2 century long, European Christian struggle to regain and hold the Holy Land from encroaching empires. Written from the perspective of that time period, free of the ideologically revisionist views of today.

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  • Posted February 6, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Another way to look at the European-led Crusades

    It is a strong attempt to explain the Middle Age Crusades to the Holy Land from the perspective of Europe attempting to stem the Muslim tide washing over the Christian lands of the Middle East. It is fair to both sides and is provocative in getting you to see outside the 'box' of current Western historical orthodoxy.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted April 1, 2012

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    Posted March 25, 2011

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    Posted August 24, 2011

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    Posted February 27, 2011

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    Posted May 13, 2011

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    Posted April 15, 2011

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    Posted November 25, 2009

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