The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam

Jonathan Riley-Smith

Columbia University Press

The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam

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Pub Date: September 2008

ISBN: 9780231146258

136 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $24.00£18.00

Pub Date: September 2008

ISBN: 9780231146241

136 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $50.00£37.00

Pub Date: September 2008

ISBN: 9780231517942

136 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $23.99£18.00

The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam

Jonathan Riley-Smith

Columbia University Press

The Crusades were penitential war-pilgrimages fought in the Levant and the eastern Mediterranean, as well as in North Africa, Spain, Portugal, Poland, the Baltic region, Hungary, the Balkans, and Western Europe. Beginning in the eleventh century and ending as late as the eighteenth, these holy wars were waged against Muslims and other enemies of the Church, enlisting generations of laymen and laywomen to fight for the sake of Christendom.

Crusading features prominently in today's religio-political hostilities, yet the perceptions of these wars held by Arab nationalists, pan-Islamists, and many in the West have been deeply distorted by the language and imagery of nineteenth-century European imperialism. With this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith returns to the actual story of the Crusades, explaining why and where they were fought and how deeply their narratives and symbolism became embedded in popular Catholic thought and devotional life.

From this history, Riley-Smith traces the legacy of the Crusades into modern times, specifically within the attitudes of European imperialists and colonialists and within the beliefs of twentieth-century Muslims. Europeans fashioned an interpretation of the Crusades from the writings of Walter Scott and a French contemporary, Joseph-François Michaud. Scott portrayed Islamic societies as forward-thinking, while casting Christian crusaders as culturally backward and often morally corrupt. Michaud, in contrast, glorified crusading, and his followers used its imagery to illuminate imperial adventures.

These depictions have had a profound influence on contemporary Western opinion, as well as on Muslim attitudes toward their past and present. Whether regarded as a valid expression of Christianity's divine enterprise or condemned as a weapon of empire, crusading has been a powerful rhetorical tool for centuries. In order to understand the preoccupations of Islamist jihadis and the character of Western discourse on the Middle East, Riley-Smith argues, we must understand how images of crusading were formed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam is a very important intervention on a topic not only of current interest but also of pressing importance. Jonathan Riley-Smith shows why and how history matters.

Adam Kosto, associate professor of history, Columbia University

Jonathan Riley-Smith has written a scintillating and thought-provoking book. He provides a compelling survey not just of the place of crusading in medieval reflection about the ethics of violence and the Christian's achievement of salvation but also of how the revival of crusading rhetoric by nineteenth-century imperialists generated the Islamic association of crusading with 'Western' aggression that is so conspicuous today.

This richly informed little book should be considered essential for understanding crusading, then and now.

Booklist (starred review)

This is a powerhouse of a book, enlightening, well-written and accessible, and I recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the crusades.

Melissa Snell,

A Booklist 2008 Editors' Choice

Booklist - Editors' Choice

This slender volume provides an interesting insight into the way in which contemporary history has had an impact on studies of the crusades.

James M Powell, Catholic Historical Reivew

Brimming with insights, approachable by anyone interested in the subject.

Thomas F. Madden, First Things

An excellent book.

John France, The International History Review
1. Crusades as Christian Holy Wars
2. Crusades as Christian Penitential Wars
3. Crusades and Imperialism
4. Crusading and Islam
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About the Author

Jonathan Riley-Smith, Dixie Professor Emeritus of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridge, is the author of nine books, including The Knights of St. John in Jerusalem and Cyprus, c. 1050–1310; The Feudal Nobility and the Kingdom of Jerusalem, 1174–1277; What Were the Crusades? fourth edition; The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading; The Crusades: A History, second edition; The First Crusaders, 1095–1131; and Templars and Hospitallers as Professed Religious in the Holy Land.