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God's Crucible (2008)

de David Levering Lewis

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5041139,708 (3.53)15
In this panoramic history of Islamic culture in early Europe, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian re-examines what we thought we knew. Lewis reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished--a beacon of cooperation and tolerance between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity--while proto-Europe made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war, and slavery.--From publisher description.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 11 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Mr. Lewis has produced a readable book on the effect of the Spanish Islamic community on the more northerly European Countries. He covers the history of that country's caliphate in more detail than normal, and gives a number of illuminating details. The book is useful, and gives a fuller picture of the tensions and advances in the western Mediterranean until the mid-1200's. It is a good place to start further exploration of the question of the interactive effect on the general development of world civilization . Sadly, I note his footnotes and bibliography rely heavily on secondary books and English language translations rather than direct quotations. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Oct 16, 2021 |
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.
( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
Mr Lewis’s argument would have been better introduced as an essay. In making his case, the book assumes that one is unfamiliar with much of the period, and only summarizes rather than providing any depth. In cases where interesting background is provided as simple assertions, there aren’t specific footnotes that would let the reader follow these threads.

Skip to the bibliography and find something else. ( )
  cwcoxjr | Sep 5, 2019 |
A good well written history from the birth of Islam to its sence in Spain in the 13th Century. The white hats and black are dispersed fairly evenly between Muslims and Christians. And Christian society definitely benefited from the Muslim renaissance that occurred in Spain. ( )
  charlie68 | Oct 28, 2014 |
This book is a welcome corrective to the standard Eurocentric account of the Middle Ages. Lewis writes the dense prose of a mandarin historian, with magisterial periods and ornate formulations, but James Reston Jr. was overly harsh when he spoke of "stilted academic prose" in his review in the Washington Post. However, God's Crucible, Lewis's first foray into pre-modern history, leaves something to be desired. The notes for this extraordinarily far-ranging work show that supporting documentation (largely secondary sources; journal articles are rare) is thin. Footnotes sometimes do not correspond to the text.

More disturbingly, Lewis often chooses an interpretation that hews to a predetermined narrative and does not deeply scrutinize the historical record or interpretative debates among historians. Lewis is, in fact, a traditionalist historian, not a 'mythistorian' at all, pace the title of Ch. 7. Though he decenters the narrative, he does not allow postmodernist indeterminacy to trouble the confident progress of his history, which depends on traditional political history and is intent on inventing a new myth, one that instructs Westerners about their indebtedness to Muslim civilization and about the ruthlessly blood-soaked origins of Christian Europe. A brutal, uncouth Charlemagne contrasts with an enlightened, suave 'Abd al-Rahman I.

Many reviewers have concluded that Lewis "overstates his case," as Ed Voves said in the California Literary Review, and it's true. Unpleasant traits of Frankish leaders are unrelentingly emphasized, those of Muslim leaders are universally softened or excused (e.g. "Crucifixions and expulsions were regrettable aspects of [al-Hakam's] nation-building. Enlightened despotism was the alternative to rule by the consensus of classes or rule by the oligarchy of affluent familes . . ." [311]).

Lewis has also produced a text bereft of historical consciousness to an extent that seems deliberate. His narrative is replete with anachronistic attributions of mental states and motivations. Lewis imagines premodern leaders were preoccupied with "grand strategy" (253, another anachronism). Lewis also has a taste for anachronistic metaphors as well—"speed bump," "conveyer belt," etc. All these devices are designed to reach the contemporary reader.

In short, Lewis is very much on a mission, and while it may be a laudable one, his methods do not always stand up to scrutiny. The book has, unsurprisingly, been skewered by critics on the right like "Fjordman," the anonymous but influential Norwegian Islamaphobe, who devoted a long critique to the book when it came out in mid-2008. Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times was also hard on the book, complaining that Lewis is "in thrall to an idealized Umayyad Spain." But Kwame Anthony Appiah gave the book a more favorable review in the New York Review of Books, calling it "rich and engaging" with an "uplifting message." ( )
  jensenmk82 | Dec 13, 2009 |
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In this panoramic history of Islamic culture in early Europe, a Pulitzer Prize winning historian re-examines what we thought we knew. Lewis reveals how cosmopolitan, Muslim al-Andalus flourished--a beacon of cooperation and tolerance between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity--while proto-Europe made virtues out of hereditary aristocracy, religious intolerance, perpetual war, and slavery.--From publisher description.

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