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God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades
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God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  495 ratings  ·  118 reviews
In God's Battalions, award-winning author Rodney Stark takes on the long-held view that the Crusades were the first round of European colonialism, conducted for land, loot, and converts by barbarian Christians who victimized the cultivated Muslims. To the contrary, Stark argues that the Crusades were the first military response to unwarranted Muslim terrorist aggression.

ebook, 288 pages
Published September 29th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2009)
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Feb 19, 2010 Terence rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Medievalists/religious history buffs
Recommended to Terence by: Library newsletter
I wonder why Rodney Stark wrote this book. He claims there is a “sinister” (p. 4) trend in Crusader studies that characterizes the Muslim world as the innocent and culturally and morally far superior victim of this first manifestation of European colonialism. That “during the Crusades, an expansionist, imperialistic Christendom brutalized, looted, and colonized a tolerant and peaceful Islam” (p. 8).

Twenty years ago I was entering the world of Medieval Studies as a UCLA grad student. In fact, the
Hunter Baker
Perhaps a better title would be something like Don’t Allow the Crusades to be Thoughtlessly Added to a Parade of Christian Horribles without Knowing More about It, but I wanted to get your attention.

Rodney Stark’s God’s Batallions is an outstanding book designed to help the educated reader (not only the academic reader) understand the Crusades. You know the routine. You want to talk about Christianity and the village atheist wonders just how you are getting past the horrors of the Crusades and t
Alex Stroshine
Rodney Stark’s rollicking and highly accessible account of the Crusades serves as an eye-opener to its readers. It in, Stark clears away many modern misconceptions about the Crusades, such as false claims that the Christian soldiers were savages whereas the Muslims were enlightened and peaceful and that the Crusader forays into the Holy Land were the first attempts of European colonialism. Stark dismisses such allegations as absurd. Indeed, he declares that Muslim bitterness regarding the Crusad ...more
Mark Johansen
This book serves two useful purposes:

(1) It is a good short, readable history of the crusades. If you don't know much about the period, it's a good introduction. Stark relates an excellent overview of the history, culture, and military realities of the era. This is pretty straightforward so I'll leave it at that.

(2) The clear goal of this book is to explain the motivations of the crusaders. The "pop culture" understanding of the crusades today is that it was an unprovoked attack on Arabs by Euro
Rosanne Lortz
One of the most interesting things about studying history is learning the popular version of the story, and then learning that things are not so simple as they seem. In God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, author Rodney Stark debunks many of the popular myths surrounding the Crusades and gives a justification for one of the most poorly reputed military actions in history. This book provides a good balance to the typical view of the Crusades--"Bigoted and land-hungry European Christians b ...more
Chris Hall
It's such a joy to find a book that doesn't seek to downplay or denigrate the Christian history of the West and the Middle East. Stark takes us into the reasons of the Crusades by relating the attacks and massacres of Christian pilgrims to the Holy Places. The Crusades and their so-called barbarity are put into the context of the time and the practice of war and diplomacy.

The relationship between the Latin church, the Orthodox church, the Western Kingdoms, the Byzantine empire and the Islamic wo
A fascinating polemic in which the 'traditional' anti-Western pacificist interpretation of the Crusades is aggressively challenged--and with good reason.

As a polemic it overstates its case on occasion and the reader may find themselves rolling their eyes, but for the most part this is an excellent 'corrective' to the overstated case of 'traditional', mainstream, anti-Western, pacifist,academic historiographers.

Highly Recommended.
When people begin to list the many faults of the Christian church throughout the ages, the crusades are right at the top of the list. The image of barbaric knights journeying to the middle east and slaughtering Muslims is not uncommon. Rodney Stark argues in God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades that we have the crusades all wrong and that this is not the story.

I have enjoyed Stark’s books in the past. The Rise of Christianity is one of my all time favorites and many of his other books are
Helena Schrader
Well-Founded Refutation of Popular Misconceptions
God’s Battalions by Rodney Stark

This well-researched book with its profuse bibliography and copious notes is not a history of the crusades. Nor is it, as some reviewers suggest, an apology for the crusades. Rather this is an extended essay which refutes a number of common myths or outdated theories about the crusades and the crusader states. Stark is not a polemicist, but a professor at Baylor University, who has published extensively on religion
I took a lot of history classes in college, so I like a historical, or at least pseudo-historical book. I would probably have to technically call this non-fiction but the author has an obvious bias and doesn't hesitate to let you know what it is. Keep the salt shaker handy, as you'll need a grain or two.

Stark has a beef against certain historians who claim that the Crusades were nothing more than European colonialism forced on Muslim Middle East victims who hadn't done anything to provoke massac
Rodney Stark is not a historian, but a sociologist of religion who has also written a number of books on early Christianity. The present work is based mainly on other works of scholarship in the fields of early Islamic history and the Crusades. His goal is to counteract some popular misconceptions of the relations between early medieval Islam and Christendom, culminating in the Crusades. Scholars of the period--especially those whose work he is using--have long rejected the popular myths, althou ...more
Stark delves into another controversial chapter of Christian history. In this volume about the Crusades he exposes many myths about them which are currently circulated. The first is that the Crusades were mounted by Christians to amass land and wealth. Actually, they were a defensive action against Muslim aggression into Southern France and Constantinople, not a greedy colonial enterprise by European Christians. He demonstrates how many crusaders believed going on these expeditions would make at ...more
Peter Krol
Stark provides an interpretation of the crusader era that, though consistent with older historians, sounds radically different to a contemporary reader. How many times have we heard: "The Crusades are the proof that Christianity is intolerant and evil"? Popularly, this statement is more often simply asserted than argued for.

Stark demonstrates an alternative thesis. Rather than being unprovoked, the Crusades were the response to centuries of Muslim aggression. Rather than being a demonstration of
Over the past few years, I've grown in my appreciation for the writing of Stark, the sociologist of religion who teaches at Baylor University. He's an entertaining and engaging writer, and he seems to delight in turning conventional wisdom about the history of Christianity on its head. In this book, he takes on historians who argue that the Crusades were fought by greedy and opportunistic knights, that they were unprovoked, and that Muslim culture was superior to medieval European Christianity. ...more
This was my first Rodney Clark book. I wasn't disappointed at all. As Clark states, the aim of the book was to show that "the Crusades were not unprovoked." And that "they were not the first round of European colonialism," neither were they "conducted for land, loot, or coverts." And finally, the "crusaders were not barbarians who victimized the cultivated Muslims," and that finally the crusaders "sincerely believed that they served in God's battalions." These points are all roundly examined in ...more
If ever there was a misunderstood episode in history, this is it. Rodney relies on original sources and historical documents to establish the narrative of the five crusades particularly the first three. I have learnt a lot through this book and will definitely rely on it to correct misunderstanding and falsehood.
Karl Rove
A short, brash book by a respected Baylor University professor, this volume provides a healthy dose of revisionism about the Crusades. Stark argues they were not an act of colonial imperialism, but instead the rational response of a beleaguered West to centuries of aggressive Islamic expansionism. The core of the Crusades were deeply religious families who mortgaged their lands and depleted their fortunes for the cause of liberating the Holy Lands. And the whole enterprise eventually dwindled an ...more
Jeff Locke
In the books of his I've read, Stark does such a good job of confronting conventional opinion with historical data, and this one is no exception.
Oh my... I really look forward to reading other reviews of this book, because it is guaranteed to raise some protests and lamentations. Personally I had several quiet chuckles while reading it, because the author says pretty much what I've been thinking for very long time and provides solid arguments for the point of view that I wholeheartedly support.
At the same time it must be admitted that Stark constantly flirts in his narrative with 'the dark side', pretty much for the same reasons why I di
Were the crusades a brutal early example of western colonialism, launched by violent barbarians from "dark Ages" Europe against the civilised and urbane societies of medieval Islam? Rodney Stark's response is a strident "No!", and this book is a detailed defence of the crusades and an attempt to show that they were: a) part of a wider conflict initiated by the Muslim conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe; and, b) not an attempt at colonialism, but an heroi ...more
Good solid introduction to the crusades that places them in their historical context and sifts through a load of anachronism and other b.s. that has accumulated in the popular mind. I do have a problem with Stark's chosen subtitle because I don't think anyone should be making a "case" for the crusades or for any other historical event in the deep past. He also goes off the rails with his contention that the medieval scholastics (Aquinas, et al.) were more "innovative" than the Arabic-language sc ...more
Frank Pacosa
This book is a revelation. After years of hearing the apologists for Islam and believing that it is a kinder, gentler faith, I now believe that the roots, history, and current practice of Islam have a lot of explaining to do to justify their place in a world community of religions based on tolerance and community.

I know that horrible pillaging and slaughter have been done in the name of Jesus Christ but from the author points which seem well documented The Christians in the Crusades were not nea
The book is not telling us something new. It`s like a brief history of the Crusades and The Knights Templar with some personal opinions from the author. It`s trying to convince us that Тhe Knights Templar were really fighting for God(something which we already know)and to give an explanation why they slaughtered Muslims back then.The author is definitely writting from one point of view. The Crusaders` view, the Christians` view. The author`s opinion is in a way too biased. I mean, a true histori ...more
Troy Rodgers
Advance warning: nothing in this book is politically correct. It is biased from the Christian POV. If that turns you off, this book is probably not for you.

Having said that, I am neither Christian nor Muslim, and I don't have a dog in this fight... or rather, I didn't think I did until the author's full case was presented.

We in the West live in an age where we like to think that we are evolved enough to accept tolerance, and that as a result, everyone else should too. The side effect of this is
Rick Davis
God's Battalions was simply a fascinating book. It raised many questions in my mind about the period of the Crusades; fortunately, the book has a nice long bibliography at the end, which I fully intend to plunder. I appreciated the copious citations as well. The only thing that could improve this book would be an index of names and places for easy reference.
Keith Brooks
An excellent history of the Crusades with 2 points of note: 1) Stark shows how the modern Islamic obsession with the Crusades is really a byproduct of the weakness of the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th and 20th century; 2) he puts the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders in perspective: each crusading army had been betrayed by the Byzantines.
This book is great! A quick, readable, and unabashedly partisan overview of 600 years of history. It was wonderful to read this bird's-eye view of a period of history I've long been fascinated by.

I hope to write something more in-depth on this amazing book later--of special note are a few fascinating themes that cropped up again and again throughout the tale--but will just leave it with this one observation. Like many others, I thought the 4th Crusade's sacking of Constantinople was a complete d
Julie Ellis
The author was very clearly biased towards Christianity, and I think his bias hurts the book overall. However, I do like the fact that he is taking on common assumptions about history. Most, of his citations were from works that were fairly dated, and I feel that hurts his work aas well.
Steven Wedgeworth
Stark overreaches in this book. He makes a number of good points, but he comes off a bit too much like a Fox News anchorman by the end of it. It's clearly a reactionary piece, of some value, but should be read alongside other works.
Bradley Davis
The book is good. It's not life-changing or earth-shattering, but it's good. I think Stark makes a good case early on that the Crusades were not based in vicious attempts to convert Muslims or gain easy money, but were a response to acts of desecration in the Holy Land. He writes with clarity and ease, which make the book easy to follow.
As Jenkins notes, his best achievement is to help us "see the Crusaders on their own terms." This is what is most helpful about the book. However, the subtitle i
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Rodney Stark grew up in Jamestown, North Dakota, and began his career as a newspaper reporter. Following a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, he received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, where he held appointments as a research sociologist at the Survey Research Center and at the Center for the Study of Law and Society. He left Berkeley to become Professor of Sociology and of Compa ...more
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“Many critics of the Crusades would seem to suppose that after the Muslims had overrun a major portion of Christendom, they should have been ignored or forgiven; suggestions have been made about turning the other cheek. This outlook is certainly unrealistic and probably insincere. Not only had the Byzantines lost most of their empire; the enemy was at their gates. And the loss of Spain, Sicily, and southern Italy, as well as a host of Mediterranean islands, was bitterly resented in Europe. Hence, as British historian Derek Lomax (1933-1992) explained, 'The popes, like most Christians, believed war against the Muslims to be justified partly because the latter had usurped by force lands which once belonged to Christians and partly because they abused the Christians over whom they ruled and such Christian lands as they could raid for slaves, plunder and the joys of destruction.' It was time to strike back.” 3 likes
“...current Muslim memories and anger about the Crusades are a twentieth-century creation, prompted in part by 'post-World War I British and French imperialism and post-World War II creation of the state of Israel.” 3 likes
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