June 3, 2014

INFIDEL KINGS AND UNHOLY WARRIORS - Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad -

INFIDEL KINGS AND UNHOLY WARRIORS - Faith, Power, and Violence in the Age of Crusade and Jihad -

 

In Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors, the award-winning scholar Brian Catlos puts us on the ground in the Mediterranean world of 1050–1200. We experience the sights and sounds of the region just as enlightened Islamic empires and primitive Christendom began to contest it. We learn about the siege tactics, theological disputes, and poetry of this enthralling time. And we see that people of different faiths coexisted far more frequently than we are commonly told.

Catlos’s meticulous reconstruction of the era allows him to stunningly overturn our most basic assumption about it: that it was defined by religious extremism. He brings to light many figures who were accepted as rulers by their ostensible foes. Samuel B. Naghrilla, a self-proclaimed Jewish messiah, became the force behind Muslim Granada. Bahram Pahlavuni, an Armenian Christian, wielded power in an Islamic caliphate. And Philip of Mahdia, a Muslim eunuch, rose to admiral in the service of Roger II, the Christian “King of Africa.” 

What their lives reveal is that, then as now, politics were driven by a mix of self-interest, personality, and ideology. Catlos draws a similar lesson from his stirring chapters on the early Crusades, arguing that the notions of crusade and jihad were not causes of war but justifications. He imparts a crucial insight: the violence of the past cannot be blamed primarily on religion.

 

Brian Catlos

Brian Catlos (Montréal, 1966) earned a PhD in Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, and currently holds appointments as a Professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Research Associate at the University of California Santa Cruz. His work centers on Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations and ethno-religious identity in medieval Europe and the Islamic World, and the history of the pre-Modern Mediterranean. A board member of various academic journals, he also co-directs The Mediterranean Seminar, a major initiative and a forum for international and interdisciplinary collaboration in the emerging field of Mediterranean Studies. He has published a number of books and articles including the award-winning, The Victors and the Vanquished: Christians and Muslims of Catalonia and Aragon, 1050–1300 (Cambridge, 2004); two books are forthcoming: The Muslims of Medieval Latin Christendom, 1050–ca. 1615 (Cambridge) and Infidel Kings and Unholy Warriors (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). Awards and distinctions include the Governor-General of Canada's Gold Medal for Academic Achievement, a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship, and many other university, national and international fellowships and prizes.

He is also a free-lance travel writer and historical consultant, based near Boulder CO and in Barcelona, Spain. In addition to his Rough Guide: Languedoc & Roussillon he contributes chapters and updates for other guidebooks, and provides historical expertise for book and film projects.

 

         
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