God's Battalions

  • by Rodney Stark
  • Narrated by David Drummond
  • 7 hrs and 59 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.


What the Critics Say

"An excitingly readable distillation of the new, revisionist Crusades historiography." (Booklist)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A lively and useful introduction

"God's Battalions" has the unfortunate subtitle, "The Case for the Crusades." That makes it sound more polemical than it appeared to me as I listened to it. Rodney Stark seems to be arguing, not that the Crusades were a righteous cause, but that the European participants THOUGHT they were a righteous cause, and that we should take their declared motivations seriously. It's not so much pro-Crusades as it is anti-anti-Crusades.

Stark doesn't think the Crusades were a cynical grab for land and power. By analyzing family connections and financial data, he argues that most people who went on the Crusades did so at tremendous cost, sometimes bankrupting themselves in the process, for little or no material gain. He concludes from this that they truly felt they were participating in a "higher cause."

Stark's strong suit is using sociological and economic data to fill in the historical picture. Surprisingly, he manages to do this without turning the book into a dry thesis: he sticks to a strong narrative line, filled with battle descriptions, anecdotes, and extensive quotes from letters and other contemporary documents. Most of all, he tries to be specific: which families were involved, which groups participated in pogroms, which factions (Christian and Muslim) set off the conflict, when did accusations of conquest and colonialism first arise.

The narrative is crafted into a compact and comprehensible outline that makes the book a useful introduction to the subject. Of course, I have to admit, in saying that, that this IS the first book I've read on the subject. I was drawn to it by the liveliness of the writing (and the excellence of David Drummond's narration) more than anything else. Even if Stark's analysis fails to stand up over time, he has included a wealth of information in a concise and very well-organized format.
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- Tad Davis

Possibly true but not a convincing author

I wanted to like this book - not because I am anti-Muslim but because I do think that, for a variety of reasons, much modern scholarship is hypercritical of Western history and much less critical of non-western history. Don't misunderstand -- much of western history is not honorable -- however, the same can be said of other cultures and I don't think the West is worse than any other. In fact, in spite of many defects, it has been the fountain of freedom and equality as well as technology, etc.

Regarding this book, however, the author did not make a good case. What he said may well be true -- but he did not make a case for it. What's more, many times his argument seemed to be, "Yes, the Crusaders were bad but the Muslims were also bad and Eastern Orthodox Christians were without conscience (I am not Eastern Orthodox, btw).

In the end, I was left to conclude that he started with an assumption and then wrote about it.

I realize no one probably writes without bias, even when she/he tries, but I think we can get closer to the truth if we at least make the attempt. I did not feel I was closer to the actual truth after reading this book.
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- Linda

Book Details

  • Release Date: 12-22-2009
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio