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Fools, Martyrs, Traitors: The Story of Martyrdom in the Western World

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  20 Ratings  ·  3 Reviews
In this engrossing exploration of martyrdom, Lacey Baldwin Smith takes us on a riveting journey through history as he examines one of the most baffling characteristics of the human species: its willingness to die to sanctify a deity, to defend a cause, or simply to prove a point. In telling the stories of his chosen martyrs, by delving into their psyches, politics, and rem ...more
ebook, 448 pages
Published May 9th 2012 by Knopf (first published 1997)
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Lauren Albert
This book has two personalities. The first few chapters have an entirely different--and not very likable in my book--tone. I have no problem with Smith's skepticism. I did have a problem with his mockery. He mocks Judaism, he mocks Christianity, he mocks particular martyrs. As an example, he writes, "But should they [Jews] forget His Law, He turned extremely nasty." But suddenly at some point, the mockery vanishes and he, while maintaining his skepticism, becomes more respectful.

The concept of
...more
Fraser Sherman
Nov 24, 2016 Fraser Sherman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, religion
The premise of the book is how we define martyrdom, and how we distinguish among those willing to die for a cause—who are true martyrs, which ones are crazy fools and which are just traitors (when their beliefs require them to defy the state). The result is a mix of psychology, biography and speculation as Smith looks at founding martyr Socrates; then early religious martyrs defending their personal faith; then later religious martyrs who were more likely to defend the institutional church and i ...more
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Jul 16, 2007 VMom rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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I had to return this before I finished it.
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Lacey Baldwin Smith was an historian and author specializing in 16th century England. He was the author of Henry VIII: The Mask of Royalty and Catherine Howard: A Tudor Tragedy, among other books.

Born in Princeton, New Jersey, Smith taught at Princeton University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Northwestern University. He received two Fulbright awards, two National Endowment for the
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“I cannot conceive of a greater loss than the loss of one's self-respect.” 396 likes
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