God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

by David Levering Lewis


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From the two-time Pulitzer Prize–winning author, God’s Crucible brings to life “a furiously complex age” (New York Times Book Review).

Resonating as profoundly today as when it was first published to widespread critical acclaim a decade ago, God’s Crucible is a bold portrait of Islamic Spain and the birth of modern Europe from one of our greatest historians. David Levering Lewis’s narrative, filled with accounts of some of the most epic battles in world history, reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished—a beacon of cooperation and tolerance—while proto-Europe floundered in opposition to Islam, making virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war, and slavery. This masterful history begins with the fall of the Persian and Roman empires, followed by the rise of the prophet Muhammad and five centuries of engagement between the Muslim imperium and an emerging Europe. Essential and urgent, God’s Crucible underscores the importance of these early, world-altering events whose influence remains as current as today’s headlines.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631494307
Publisher: Liveright Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 03/20/2018
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 1,206,255
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

David Levering Lewis, the author of
God’s Crucible, is professor emeritus of history at
New York University. A recipient of the National
Humanities Medal, Lewis received the Pulitzer Prize for each volume of his W.E.B. Du Bois biography.
He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

List Of Illustrations ix

List Of Maps xi

Chronology xiii

Notes On Usage xix

Preface xxi

1 The Superpowers 3

2 "The Arabs Are Coming!" 29

3 "Jíhad!" 57

4 The Co-opted Caliphate and the Stumbling Jíhad 85

5 The Year 711 105

6 Picking Up the Pieces after Rome 137

7 The Myth of Poitiers 160

8 The Fall and Rise of the Umayyads 184

9 Saving the Popes 209

10 An Empire of Force and Faith 224

11 Carolingian Jíhads: Roncesvalles and Saxony 251

12 The Great Mosque 268

13 The First Europe, Briefly 282

14 Equipoise-Delicate and Doomed 304

15 Disequilibrium, Pelayo's Revenge 333

16 Knowledge Transmitted, Rationalism Repudiated: Ibn Rushd and Musa ibn Maymun 367

Acknowledgments 381

Notes 385

Glossary 423

Genealogies 433

Bibliography 439

Credits 449

Index 451

What People are Saying About This

Amartya Sen

A wonderfully interesting contribution.

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God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
RobertP on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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.
nemoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book summarizes the rise of Islam and its conquering of Spain contrasted against the simultaneous, halting attempts by Christendom to meld the rest of Europe into something other than a bunch of roving barbarians. Europe and Catholicism come off a distant second to Mulim Spain in almost any category of civilization. Lewis postulates that Spain under Muslim rule was some 4oo years further advanced than Christian Europe. Moreover, in contrast with Catholicism's rabid intolerance, even for different sects within its own religion, Islam comes off as relatively moderate in terms of coexistence with Jews and Christians (who nonetheless always remained second class citizens). It is altogether possible that had not Charles Martel defeated the Muslims at Poitiers, Islam may have conquered most of Europe with the result that 400 years of the dark ages might have been erased, and Europe might have entered the modern era much sooner. The book is rich in historical data; however, it lacks narrative drive in many points which makes for difficult slogging. I also struggled with the numerous Arab names.
bezoar44 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a straightforward political history; well-written and even colorful, but hardly magisterial, never mind the jacket blurbs. About three quarters of the book covers the period 570 - 814: the expansion of Islam (to the west), the origins of Carolingian Europe, and the encounters between Muslims and Christians in Spain. Many of the works cited by this book are themselves two steps removed from primary sources and there's no bibliographical essay, so the reader just has to hope that the sources managed to integrate the most current scholarship. More problematically, the book offers little interpretation of why the period mattered, why political and social institutions evolved, or what it should mean to us today. It's a good book if you're looking for a readable account of what happened or want to absorb the overall pattern of names and dates.
ruinedbyreading on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Enlightenment in Europe is often celebrated as the beginning of intelligent, modern Western thought after the Dark Ages. Yet many fail to realize that the roots of the Enlightenment were in the Islamic empire. God¿s Crucible sets out to correct these misconceptions and remind people of modern Europe¿s roots.Lewis gives reader a look at what the Iberian Peninsula looked like at the time surrounding the Islamic invasion. The Visigoths, who were in power at this time, were brutal in their rule. The Visigoths were former Arian Christians who had converted to Roman Christianity, which is when things started to turn sour for the Jews of Spain. Jews faced forced emigration and force conversions to Roman Christianity. At one point, the Visigoths sold all adult Jews who had refused to convert into slavery. It should be no surprise that the Jews turned to their neighboring Muslims in North Africa for liberation. However, it's important to note that Lewis' description of the Visigoth's is pretty outdated and a little harsher than what many historians today agree is reality. The Islamic empire was far more tolerant than the Roman Christians, and proved to be a safe haven for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. Yes, I know. It may be hard to believe for some, but at one point in time Jews and Muslims got along swimmingly!Lewis¿ area of expertise is not Islamic history, and that it shows in some parts of God¿s Crucible. I don¿t know enough about Islamic history in Europe to pick out any mistakes that he¿s made, but I did pick up on one little mistake in his retelling of early Islamic history, when he chalks Uthman¿s assassination up to Muslims just being angry over his burning Qur¿an¿s in the process of compiling it. Lewis fails to realize that his political corruption was the main reason why he was killed. I thought it was a little too obvious to overlook and misinterpret, so if he got that wrong what else did he misinterpret later in the book? I don¿t expect a history book to keep me on the edge of my seat, but it was hard to keep focused on the text when Lewis began talking about history that, while connected to the main subject of the book, was not always entirely relevant or necessary. When he wrote about the topic directly it was much more interesting. But, the book really could have been cut down quite a bit. I felt like he would go into great detail in some parts, but in others he would just skim over names and terms without bothering to explain who these people were.Despite its downfalls, I think God¿s Crucible is an important book. This is a topic that needs to be discussed and paid attention to. There aren¿t very many books out there who really deal with this subject, and probably none that are written by a Pulitzer Prize winning historian. If history books are your cup of tea, I would recommend it.
jlbrownn23 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The subject matter is interesting to me, but this was really written like you fear a career academic will write. So many names, facts and details just packed in - they get in the way of any sort of story or flowing narrative. The author could have filled 1000 or more pages with what he forced in to 350 or so, and none of it seemed all that well fleshed out for the non-expert. Because of this the narrative seemed very unfocused to me - we are bombarded with disjointed facts instead of led to a coherent thesis.
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KeikoHP More than 1 year ago
This book tries to show how Europe's contest with the Muslim world created the continent that we know today. I'm sure I would think that it's a fascinating book if only I hadn't already read so much both on the formation of Christendom and on the early medieval Muslim world (I went to graduate school in Near Eastern Studies). As it is, the book had its interesting moments, but I was only able to read it a little at a time. Perhaps the problem is mainly that not much information survives from that time period, relatively speaking, so what is left lacks the power to move us. Or perhaps it's that for most people the modern world is what best holds our interest. In any case, this book deserves a better review than I'm giving it.
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JPRenna More than 1 year ago
I love the history of the middle ages, especially the early middle ages from the fall of rome until 1000 AD/CE. This book references the actual source materials available to historians and gives them in-depth analysis. The analysis is effective because the author pulls from European, Byzantine, Persian, Arab, Frank, Visigothic and Spanish-Moslem sources. The author corrects typical, but erroneous western perspectives about the Moslem "conquest" and the competing Christian and Moslem civilizations.