During the Crusades, and expansionist, imperialistic Christendom brutalized, looted, and colonized a tolerant and peaceful Islam.
That’s what most of us were taught about the Crusades. Rodney Stark, in his book God’s Battalions: The Case for the Crusades, makes a strong case that what we learned was wrong – seriously wrong. While there were excesses (which should be condemned), he shows that
the Crusades were precipitated by Islamic provocations: by centuries of bloody attempts to colonize the West and by sudden new attacks on Christian pilgrims and holy places. Although the Crusades were initiated by a plea from the pope, this had nothing to do with hopes of converting Islam. Nor were the Crusades organized and led by the surplus sons, but by the heads of great families who were fully aware that the costs of crusading would far exceed the very modest material rewards that could be expected; most went at immense personal cost, some of them knowingly bankrupting themselves to go. Moreover, the crusader kingdoms that they established in the Holy Land, and that stood for nearly two centuries, were not colonies sustained by local exactions; rather, they required immense subsidies from Europe.
We’ve heard a lot about the Crusades recently (most of it nonsense and historically inaccurate), and this book is an important tool for properly understanding our family history.