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God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215

3.76  ·  Rating Details ·  667 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
At the beginning of the eighth century, the Arabs brought a momentous revolution in power, religion, and culture to Dark Ages Europe. David Levering Lewis's masterful history begins with the fall of the Persian and Roman empires, followed by the rise of the prophet Muhammad and the creation of Muslim Spain. Five centuries of engagement between the Muslim imperium and an em ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published January 12th 2009 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Madeline
It took me a very long time to finish this book. I would stick with it for a few weeks, and then take a break from the book to read a novel or something. All together, I think I read five or six other books while trying to get through God's Crucible. The problem wasn't that the material was boring - I've been wanting to read a good, detailed history of pre-Crusades Islam for a long time, so I was really excited to find this - but it's dense. Important historical figures appear and disappear from ...more
Jennie
The story of the early spread of Islam is very interesting to me, and I was looking forward to reading this. However, David Levering Lewis, the author, seems to be more concerned with showing off his vocabulary and tossing out ridiculous analogies than he is with telling the story. It's a fascinating story that doesn't need fancy vocabulary and stupid analogies.

I forgave this:

"Yet, as much as the eudaemonia experienced in the hearing and the reading of its scriptures, as much even as the confid
...more
Toonvanelst
God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe is not a very good history book. Read it only when you have a deeper knowledge of this period of history or you will end up with a biased view of the 700 years described.

My 'danger' flag went up from the moment I read the part titled 'about the author'. D.L. Lewis previously wrote a book about antisemitism in France and British/European Imperialism/Colonialism vs African/Muslim resistance. With a background like that, you can't seriously write about
...more
David Alexander
The anti-Christian bias of Pulitzer-prize winning David Levering Lewis in his God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 is so thick that it mars the objectivity of the history, converting it into a polemic. It is so pronounced and continuous that it is safe to say it is an organizing principle of this work. The author, for example, early on reserves the term "ideology" for Christianity; rationalizes Zoroastrian persecution of Christians; and calls St. Augustine's The City of God a ...more
Elijah Meeks
Feb 18, 2009 Elijah Meeks rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the book suffers in its early history of Islam, God's Crucible does an excellent job of describing Muslim Spain and the effect it had on the formation of modern Europe and the Catholic Church. What I find most appealing about this book is that it places Islamic history within the existing framework of Medieval European history. What's especially useful in understanding early Islam is Lewis' referral to the state of contemporaneous European and Christian history and theology. Most interesti ...more
Patrick
Feb 13, 2008 Patrick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
We are constantly bombarded by extreme portrayals of Islam, and associated references to the "perennial" conflicts among Islam, Judaism and Christianity. When I heard about "God's Crucible" and its promise to explain the history of Islam and depict a period of cooperation among religions in Europe, I was very enthusiastic. I finally got a library copy of it, and have now managed to plow through it.

For the first third of the book, I felt like I was reading prosopography - it is dominated by a li
...more
William
Jan 12, 2010 William rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What could have been did not happen. What did happen should not have been.

There is a keen sense of historical disappointment that David Levering Lewis weaves through "God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570 to 1215." If only the barbaric French Christians lost the Battle of Poitiers (Tours) to those advanced Arab invaders!

OK, this probably got your attention. Many narratives that look at "the sweep of history" are unabashedly "pro-Western." No matter how barbaric Medieval Europe was,
...more
Alex Telander
In a time when Western involvement in the Middle East seems almost certain to last for the rest of this generation's lives, it is more important than ever to understand why. The Middle East is still a very misunderstood place, of whose deep and complex history most have little inkling; a history without which the development of disciplines like medicine, mathematics and astronomy would be severely retarded. God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 570-1215 by David Levering Lewis, a profe ...more
Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a striking case of a writer sympathetic to Islam but not lending tacit credence to supernatural explanations of its origins. It is also one of the small crop of books finished since 9-11 but conceived before. As such, it is a refreshing and rational examination of the explosive rise of Islam and the circumstances which permitted its success, the weaknesses which led its expansion to stall at the Pyrenees and Bosphorus, and the legacy of Russell's "brilliant civilisation" in Iberia. The w ...more
Mollie
Jul 19, 2008 Mollie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Lewis tries to look at the clash between Islam and Christianity during the Middle Ages from a new (non-Western) perspective. According to European myth-makers and France's epic The Song of Roland, Christianity valiantly and miraculously repelled the barbaric, heathen Saracens and rescued Europe from Islam. According to Lewis, Europe and Dark-Age Christianity stood to gain quite a lot from the tolerant, thriving, accelerated culture of al-Andalus. Arab scholars maintained and translated countless ...more
Lauren Albert
So many of the negative reviews implied revisionism. I don't see it. Everything in the book is something I've seen plenty of times in other books. It's no revelation, for instance, that the Islamic world was generally in advance of most of the Christian world at this time. It is certainly not a revelation that the Muslims were far more tolerant of the believers of other faiths. That these things have changed does not mean they did not exist. I didn't love the book. I found it confusing at times. ...more
Kaiser Dias
Feb 05, 2013 Kaiser Dias rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A história do Islã clara e detelhada
O livro é muito bom. O autor explica desde a guerra entre o Império Romano Oriental (Bizantino) e o Império Sassânida (Persa) até o colapso do Império Árabe, passando pelo declínio de Constantinopla, a conquista e ocaso da Espanha muçulmana e a fundação da França.
Tudo é descrito em detalhes mas com clareza e simplicidade.
O único porém é o capítulo final que é bastante corrido em comparação com os outros. Fica parecendo que o escritor se encheu do tema e quis f
...more
Andrew
Mar 23, 2011 Andrew rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
How did Europe and the Islamic world as we now recognize it come to be? How did they influence each other's evolution? What are the roots of competition between Islam and Chritianity? How did they interact with Judaism?

These driving questions are addressed in this extraordinarily researched book. Some of the best sections describe Mohammad and the rise of Islam, the Islamic occupation of Iberia, and the rise of Charlemagne and he relationship with the Catholic Church.

The battles are horrible, bu
...more
Fred Kohn
I really liked the first 300 pages or so of this book, and had it stopped here I would have given it 4 stars. The author's florid writing style, which bothered some reviewers, for me made what could have been otherwise dry material more interesting. The last 100 pages or so I felt was rather disorganized. Throughout the book I was wondering about the lack of mention of the philosophical and scientific influences of Islam in Europe, only to find them all crammed in a single chapter towards the en ...more
Ray
Nov 21, 2008 Ray rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
If you're truly interested in this period of Islam and Europe, this book is fine. The audiobook edition suffers from an absence of maps to visualize the areas being discussed, and many of the names of Muslim leaders and long gone historical areas were unfamiliar to me, and therefore sections of this book were difficult to retain. It reads like a history textbook, and in audiobook form, a lack of supplemental information and visual aids makes it more difficult than a text version.
Rose Zamy
Apr 06, 2015 Rose Zamy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Took a while to get into. And then, to my astonishment. . . it became a page-turner! I was fascinated, wanted to know how things turned out for the states, the leaders involved. I did find it fascinating, and highly educational. In fact, it has prompted me to begin reading "HOuse of Wisdom", since we are talking about the same subject to a great degree.
Albert
Jul 28, 2011 Albert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It started out interesting, but then started feeling a little too stuffy and dry. While the subject is of critical importance today, the way in which the history is told is also critical. Gave up before getting halfway.
Jeff Rudisel
Sep 13, 2012 Jeff Rudisel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history, 2013
Great history, from a perhaps somewhat different perspective than you are used to.
Cindy
Feb 21, 2017 Cindy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
summary of Islam's influence on Europe 570-1215
lost interest about 2/3 way through; perhaps needed more editing
Harold Johnson
Mar 15, 2013 Harold Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I gave this book top rating because it is a very well written popular history of the very civilized society which the Muslims produced in Spain during the early and mid middle ages and the relationship of this society with the then much more primitive society of feudal Europe.

Before I moved to Palermo I was aware that Spain, or most of it, had been Muslim at one point, but I knew nothing of the real history of the period. It was fascinating to discover just how the Muslims had taken over the old
...more
Hotavio
God's Crucible combines my fascination with history and religion in a chronicle of the early medieval battle over Spain. The lay person is unaware that Spain was controlled by the Umayyad dynasty, the result of a prince who fled from a dynastic change in the middle east. The result was a pre-Renaissance flowering of culture, intellect, and science in the otherwise devoid medieval Europe.

Lewis also details the forging of a united Germanic peoples beyond the Pyranees mountains of the current Sp
...more
A-ron
Jul 10, 2008 A-ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
One of the few books recently that I didn't find lying on the street. This one is a Sandy Public Library find.

I like this history. The author engaged me throughout with a narrative that unfolded like a well paced story while maintaining a constant flow of relevant and significant information. I've read a handful of histories recently that were not particularly well organized or engaging, and this one clearly stands out from them. Here however is where I admit to being unqualified to truly rate t
...more
Navarra
Jan 01, 2015 Navarra rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
God’s Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe, 572-1215 ought to be called “So You Think You Know Anything About the Dark Ages Europe.” David Levering Lewis has written the definitive genesis of Western Europe primer sans the boredom. As densely packed with information as a sophomore university history text, Lewis’ writing includes wry touches and delicious wit that coupled with fascinatingly rarely-discussed details…it reads like a pulp non-fiction book. Having read some about Late Antiquity/v ...more
Sheila
Mar 19, 2016 Sheila rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When you read "God's Crucible," at some point you may realize that you are not a reader but a passenger. You have bought a ticket on a train that will circle the Mediterranean and travel through Africa, the Middle East, and the east and west of what later comes to be called "Europe." Your 600+ year tour will only take 19 hours. Your tour guide slash historian slash poet, David Levering Louis, is worldly and iconoclastic. Indeed, if you are like me and have saddled with Eurocentric glasses, you m ...more
Adam
Jul 11, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This superb portrayal by NYU history professor Lewis of the fraught half-millennium during which Islam and Christianity uneasily coexisted on the continent just beginning to be known as Europe displays the formidable scholarship and magisterial ability to synthesize vast quantities of material that won him Pulitzer Prizes for both volumes of W.E.B. Du Bois.In characteristically elegant prose, Lewis shows Islam arising in the power vacuum left by the death throes of the empires of newly Christian ...more
Monte
Jan 26, 2009 Monte rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-general
This superb portrayal by NYU history professor Lewis of the fraught half-millennium during which Islam and Christianity uneasily coexisted on the continent just beginning to be known as Europe displays the formidable scholarship and magisterial ability to synthesize vast quantities of material that won him Pulitzer Prizes for both volumes of W.E.B. Du Bois.In characteristically elegant prose, Lewis shows Islam arising in the power vacuum left by the death throes of the empires of newly Christian ...more
Evan
Feb 04, 2008 Evan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: history buffs
Recommended to Evan by: Harper's Magazine
Of course, there have been a great many books published since 9/11 explaining the Islamic world to us Americans. And most of them acknowledge the limitations of American attention spans by summarizing hundreds if not thousands of years of history in one compact book. This book by Lewis (previously best known for a biography of WEB Dubois) belongs to this trend. That said, he does a fine job of it and far exceeds the 'why do THEY hate us so much?' mold of much of the extant literature by integrat ...more
Sarah Bringhurst
I'm constantly on the lookout for books that I want my homeschooled kids to read in high school so that they'll have a good understanding of Middle Eastern/Islamic history and its relation to Europe and Western history. And this is a great example of a book I will impose upon my now-seven-year-old in about ten years.

Lewis' prose is elegant and illuminating, although his encyclopedic coverage of so many historical figures during the first half of the book is a little overwhelming. He paints a viv
...more
B
Jan 25, 2014 B rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, westend
The content here is interesting but there are three real problems:

(1) The author's style is a bit too much. There are a lot of novel words. A lot of punch, mixed cliches. To a large degree, it's positive. It "brings some of it to life." But it's distracting.

(2) The author seems to assume that the reader knows a lot of who these people are—both individuals and groups/tribes/races. But if so, the reader would have no interest in this summary book. So, slow down. Explain what's going on!

(3) The beg
...more
Bruinrefugee
Feb 15, 2016 Bruinrefugee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I was a bit frustrated after reading this. I bought God's Crucible because it was covering a span of time that's rarely focused on, namely the period from 570 to 1215 and looked to have a lot on Spain. What's odd about it, is that it goes into great detail on the lead-up to the great Muslim Conquests in North Africa and Spain and on until about 740 AD. It then keeps going until about 815, but then just sort of glosses over the next 400 years of history.

To be fair, it still at least addresses a
...more
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