Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

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Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#1  Postby TimONeill » May 14, 2010 10:44 am

After a long hiatus, I have finally got around to updating my blog of book reviews on Ancient and Medieval history. The lastest review is of Rodney Stark's God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades. The results aren't pretty - the book is a load of biased pro-Christian tendentious crap. Enjoy.

I'll update this thread as I add new reviews.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#2  Postby Tankbuster » May 14, 2010 3:36 pm

Great review, Tim. I enjoyed it. :cheers:
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#3  Postby TimONeill » May 30, 2010 2:56 am

Armarium Magnum has been updated with a new article reviewing Alejandro Amenábar's film Agora and analysing its distortions of history.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#4  Postby Mazille » May 30, 2010 3:35 pm

TimONeill wrote:Armarium Magnum has been updated with a new article reviewing Alejandro Amenábar's film Agora and analysing its distortions of history.

Thank you, Tim. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I knew some of the major points (and yes, the Roman soldiers irked me as well), but most of it was new to me. :cheers: Here's to a historian I hold in high esteem for his impartiality. :cheers:
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#5  Postby U-96 » Jun 01, 2010 4:21 am

Regarding "The Crusades as Defensive Wars? A Tenuous Thesis"

Interesting, I first heard about the idea of the crusades as a defensive war nearly ten years ago when someone posted on a forum the writings of Thomas F. Madden, where he was writing on the subject in relation to Bush's use of "crusade" and the media backlash that caused, he called the crusades "in every way a defensive war". I know he goes into detail in his book A Concise History of the Crusades, and it has a preface about 911, though I haven't read it. I have read his stuff on the Medieval world though and he is great historian, and is meant to be one of the world's most promient historians on the crusades. I don't know enough to comment I guess, but I'm wondering, is his view from ideological bias, it could well be with 911 etc, but I'm not 100% certain... is this idea not that well regarded in historical circles Tim???
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#6  Postby TimONeill » Jun 01, 2010 11:12 am

U-96 wrote: is this idea not that well regarded in historical circles Tim???


No. And for the reasons I made clear in my review of Stark's book:

This last point can be extended into a key criticism of Stark's wider thesis as well. If the Crusades were, as he tries to argue, simply a reaction to Muslim encroachment into the European "homeland", why is it we do not see this reflected in any of the vast amount of material we have on the preaching of the First Crusade or any of the material we have on the motivations of the Crusaders? Did Pope Urban and the other instigators of the Crusades forget to mention this? And if this was the "true" motivation of the Crusaders, then launching a vastly expensive and highly dangerous 2500 mile long-distance military strike into Palestine, of all places, was an extremely weird way to carry it out. It is not like Jerusalem was the religious heartland of Islam (that was Arabia) or even its political centre (that was, if anything, Cairo) or even its intellectual centre (which was Baghdad).

If the real objective was to turn back the teeming tides of fanatical Muslim expansion from the gates of Europe, as Stark tries to make out, then the obvious target was far closer to home: in Spain.


So why would they attack Palestine and not Spain? Or Egypt? This idea simply doesn't make sense.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#7  Postby U-96 » Jun 02, 2010 8:10 am

In Spain's case I would think it was unnecessary as there was already papal support for European Christians going to the Iberian Peninsula to aid in the ongoing reconquest of Spain, Spain was a part of the second crusade though, after the Spanish rulers complained about their warriors going of to fight in first crusade leaving the reconquest in a bit of a pickle.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#8  Postby TimONeill » Jun 04, 2010 2:45 am

U-96 wrote:In Spain's case I would think it was unnecessary as there was already papal support for European Christians going to the Iberian Peninsula to aid in the ongoing reconquest of Spain


Stark tries to argue that it was the threat of Islam at the gates of Europe that motivated the Crusades. But a mere 32 years before the First Crusade the then pope had called for Christian knights to aid the Spanish Christian kingdoms against their rivals and the result was ... a paltry handful of knights. Yet in 1097 the response to a call to liberate Jerusalem was responded to by hundreds of thousands. Clearly Stark is wrong.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#9  Postby U-96 » Jun 05, 2010 3:21 pm

I don't really understand your point, is it about what motivated the crusaders or motivated the crusades?
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#10  Postby TimONeill » Jun 05, 2010 9:31 pm

U-96 wrote:I don't really understand your point, is it about what motivated the crusaders or motivated the crusades?


There's a difference? Where?
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#11  Postby U-96 » Jun 19, 2010 5:31 pm

TimONeill wrote:
U-96 wrote:I don't really understand your point, is it about what motivated the crusaders or motivated the crusades?


There's a difference? Where?


What motivated the various rulers/knights of Europe and motivated the Catholic Church were clearly not the same.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#12  Postby U-96 » Jun 19, 2010 5:40 pm

I have to say, I've had a bit of time to do some reading on the subject and I'm finding the "defence" idea does have support from many scholars in the area, it's well argued and thought out as far as I can tell... it is a politically charged subject though.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#13  Postby TimONeill » Jun 21, 2010 8:23 pm

U-96 wrote:
TimONeill wrote:
U-96 wrote:I don't really understand your point, is it about what motivated the crusaders or motivated the crusades?


There's a difference? Where?


What motivated the various rulers/knights of Europe and motivated the Catholic Church were clearly not the same.


"Clearly"? Do tell. Sorry, but the two were inextricably linked. It's not like those "rulers/knights of Europe" were all Buddhists. Guess which faith they belonged to.

I've had a bit of time to do some reading on the subject and I'm finding the "defence" idea does have support from many scholars in the area


Such as who? Name them and cite their works.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#14  Postby Mazille » Jun 21, 2010 8:28 pm

Tim, is there something to the hypothesis that the crusades - at least the first few - also served to find an occupation for second-born sons and other landless nobles, who would otherwise have just wreaked havoc in their home regions? I don't remember where I picked that up, but I remember that it sounded like a reasonable explanation to me. :scratch:
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#15  Postby TimONeill » Jun 23, 2010 9:50 am

Mazille wrote:Tim, is there something to the hypothesis that the crusades - at least the first few - also served to find an occupation for second-born sons and other landless nobles, who would otherwise have just wreaked havoc in their home regions? I don't remember where I picked that up, but I remember that it sounded like a reasonable explanation to me. :scratch:


Except it's not borne out by the evidence. The main problem the Crusader States faced was a manpower shortage. This was because the Crusades weren't some kind of mass migration of second born sons and other landless nobles. They were "armed pilgrimages", where the participants swore to campaign in the east, visit Jerusalem and help protect the holy places. Then when they had done this the overwhelming majority of them went home. Why? Because they weren't landless - they had estates to get back to that they had neglected for the two years or so it took to go on crusade.

Careful study of the documentary sources (eg agreements to take on power-of-attorney for a Crusader while he was away) shows clearly that the vast majority of Crusaders were not landless at all, which is why so few of them stayed in "Outremer". This is also why the Crusader States built some of the world's most sophisticated and large scale castles: this was a way that the very small number of Europeans could manage to control large swathes of territory and, for about 200 years, hold out against vastly numerically-superior enemies.

The kingdoms of Outremer may have lasted much longer if more Crusaders were landless, but the evidence shows that this was not the case at all.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#16  Postby Mazille » Jun 23, 2010 10:41 am

Cheers. :cheers:
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#17  Postby U-96 » Jul 31, 2010 8:04 pm

TimONeill wrote:
U-96 wrote:
TimONeill wrote:
U-96 wrote:I don't really understand your point, is it about what motivated the crusaders or motivated the crusades?


There's a difference? Where?


What motivated the various rulers/knights of Europe and motivated the Catholic Church were clearly not the same.


"Clearly"? Do tell. Sorry, but the two were inextricably linked. It's not like those "rulers/knights of Europe" were all Buddhists. Guess which faith they belonged to.

I've had a bit of time to do some reading on the subject and I'm finding the "defence" idea does have support from many scholars in the area


Such as who? Name them and cite their works.


Thomas F. Madden
The New Concise History of the Crusades

Kenneth M. Setton, Harry W. Hazard
A History of the Crusades: The Impact of the Crusades on Europe

Giles Constable
Crusaders and crusading in the twelfth century

ie
"According to this view, the crusaders were the innocent victims of expansionist aggression. Many scholars today, however, reject this hostile judgment and emphasize the defensive character of the crusades as they were seen by contemporaries"
Crusaders and crusading in the twelfth century - Giles Constable
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#18  Postby TimONeill » Aug 01, 2010 4:16 am

U-96 wrote:
TimONeill wrote:
U-96 wrote:
TimONeill wrote:
U-96 wrote:I don't really understand your point, is it about what motivated the crusaders or motivated the crusades?


There's a difference? Where?


What motivated the various rulers/knights of Europe and motivated the Catholic Church were clearly not the same.


"Clearly"? Do tell. Sorry, but the two were inextricably linked. It's not like those "rulers/knights of Europe" were all Buddhists. Guess which faith they belonged to.

I've had a bit of time to do some reading on the subject and I'm finding the "defence" idea does have support from many scholars in the area


Such as who? Name them and cite their works.


Thomas F. Madden
The New Concise History of the Crusades

Kenneth M. Setton, Harry W. Hazard
A History of the Crusades: The Impact of the Crusades on Europe

Giles Constable
Crusaders and crusading in the twelfth century

ie
"According to this view, the crusaders were the innocent victims of expansionist aggression. Many scholars today, however, reject this hostile judgment and emphasize the defensive character of the crusades as they were seen by contemporaries"
Crusaders and crusading in the twelfth century - Giles Constable


Nice try, but Constable isn't talking about the Crusades as some kind of defence against Muslim expansion into Europe, which is what Stark argues. He is talking, quite rightly, about them as defences of the holy places in the East. Here's the context of what he says above:

Almost all the historians and chroniclers of the expeditions that were later called the first crusade considered them a response to the Muslim threats to Christian holy places and people in the east.

That's why they were launched against Jerusalem. If Stark was right this would have made zero strategic sense - the only Muslims who were any threat to Europe itself were in Spain and the heart of the Muslim world was in Baghdad or perhaps Cairo. But Jerusalem was the key holy site and it was defence of them that Constable is talking about.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#19  Postby U-96 » Aug 01, 2010 9:25 am

Yes and that's what I'm refering to, the crusades as a purely defensive war, the defense of Christendom.
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Re: Armarium Magnus updated - Book Reviews on History

#20  Postby TimONeill » Aug 01, 2010 11:53 am

U-96 wrote:Yes and that's what I'm refering to, the crusades as a purely defensive war, the defense of Christendom.


It was a defence of the holy places in the east, not of "Christendom". They went to retake and hold the sacred sites of Christianity - Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem etc, not to defend Europe against Muslim encroachment, as Stark tries to claim.
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