A Medieval history expert introduces readers to the epic struggle for the Near East, spanning the dawn of Islam to the rise of the Ottoman Empire and beyond.
In a work that can be somewhat overwhelming in its breadth of history and geography, Lambert (Christians and Pagans: The Conversion of Britain from Alban to Bede, 2010, etc.) provides a full introduction to the politics, warfare, and intrigue that marked Christian-Islamic history for many centuries—and which still colors it today. Readers will find many familiar names within these pages—Richard the Lionheart, Saladin, Genghis Khan, Suleiman, among several others—as well as a host of little-known warriors, potentates, divines, and, notably, women who helped create the history of the era. In the process of telling this story, Lambert hopes to dispel myths on both sides of history. Realizing that both “crusade” and “jihad” have been politicized in modern parlance, he attempts to humanize these concepts by sharing the real lives behind these broad terms. He presents leaders and warriors of all stripes, from those motivated by faith and a desire to do right to those motivated by a hunger for power, profit, or revenge. The author also makes it clear that discerning “good” versus “bad” actors throughout these centuries is almost impossible. Readers will learn a great deal about how Medieval Christian and Islamic warfare and power-shifting set up the violence we see even today, from lingering anger over the Crusades to the Sunni-Shiite split. If there is any truly overriding theme, it is the pervasiveness of violence throughout this period. Some readers may become numb after several chapters detailing how captives were executed, hostages murdered, rulers assassinated, and one political opponent after another brutally tortured—all in the name of God or Allah.
An all-encompassing introduction to the Christian-Islamic struggle for the armchair history buff.