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Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination
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Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination

3.77  ·  Rating Details  ·  43 Ratings  ·  4 Reviews
In the first century of Islam, most of the former Christian Roman Empire, from Syria to Spain, was brought under Muslim control in a conquest of unprecedented proportions. Confronted by the world of Islam, countless medieval Christians experienced a profound ambivalence, awed by its opulence, they were also troubled by its rival claims to the spiritual inheritance of Abrah ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Columbia University Press (first published 2002)
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Jan 28, 2011 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
Shelves: suny, history
Saracens by John Tolan provides a good introduction to the literate medieval person's mindset. Most literate people in the Middle Ages were religious leaders, so the majority of the sources he cites are church leaders. Tolan shows how beginning in the 8th C Syrian Christians were overrun by followers of Islam, most often referred to as Saracens, Ishmaelites, or Arabs.

Isadore of Spain had three categories for non-Christians: Jews, pagans and heretics. His typology was taken as truth for early me
Aug 25, 2015 Charlie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: medieval, islam
A very satisfying scholarly survey of Christian perceptions of Islam. Covers the early centuries of Islamic conquest through the thirteenth century, with perhaps a bit of a slant toward Spain. Concentrates on literary sources, mostly histories and treatises. The main thesis is that Christians, especially Latins, failed to understand Islam because it did not fit within their already existing conceptions of history, geography, and religion. The material is rather dense. Highly recommended, but onl ...more
Aug 08, 2011 Marc rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Although the writing style was a bit dense and dry to get through, Tolan does a good job of describing the primary sources from which he draws his conclusions. What's interesting/scary is that the same tactics used more than 1000 years ago continue to be used today, often for the same reason (defining one's in group at the expense of the "other", dehumanizing the enemy, misrepresenting their ideology through ignorance or willful choice, etc.).

It provides a good context for the crusades (a topic
A study of the Christian understanding of the Islamic Other.
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John V. Tolan works on the history of religious and cultural relations between the Arab and Latin worlds in the Middle Ages. He received a BA in Classics from Yale, an MA and a PhD in History from the University of Chicago, and an Habilitation à diriger des recherches from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. He has taught and lectured in universities in North America, Europe ...more
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