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UFPPC (www.ufppc.org) — Digging Deeper CVI: December 7 & 14, 2009, 7:00 p.m.

David Levering Lewis, God's Crucible: Islam and the Making of Europe (New
York and London: W.W. Norton, January 2008; paperback January 2009).

[Thesis. Westerners (especially culture, religious practice, and military


Christians and Jews) are much more organization" (21; 18-21). War between
indebted to Muslim civilization than most the Eastern Roman Empire and Iran (21-
realize.] 23). Its effect on Arabia (23-26). Mecca,
dominated by the Quraysh tribe (26-28).
List of Illustrations. 2 pp.
Ch. 2: "The Arabs Are Coming!"
List of Maps. 5 maps. Muhammad's early life (29-33).
Revelation and hijra to Yathrib (Medina)
Chronology. From 53 BCE to 1215 CE. in 622 CE (33-40). Muhammad's last
5 pp. years (40-51). The problem of
succession (51-52). The Qur'an (53-56).
Notes on Usage. Calendars; Arabic
spelling; foreign words. Ch. 3: "Jihad!" The East Roman Empire
under Heraclius defeats the Sassanian
Preface. Three months in Khartoum in Iranian empire under Khosrow II [Kosrau
1982 (xxi-xxii). Pace European history as Parvez], which began a sudden collapse
it is usually told, there was not a military after the battle of Nineveh (627 CE) (57-
defeat of Islam in Europe but rather an 70). This facilitated the Muslim conquest
"epic forfeiture," after which Europe of Syria, Palestine, Libya, Egypt, then
defined itself "in opposition to Islam, Persia (70-76), and the conquest of
made virtues out of hereditary Jerusalem (637) in the Egyptian
aristocracy, persecutory religious campaign (76-84).
intolerance, cultural particularism, and
perpetual war," and made a hero out of Ch. 4: The Co-opted Caliphate and
Roland, "an eighth-century prototype of the Stumbling Jihad. After Umar's
the American cowboy" (xxii-xxiv). Lewis assassination in 644 CE, Uthmar oversaw
began the book on Sept. 11, 2001 (xxiv). the compiling of the definitive Qur'an in
Though Lewis's books seem in toto 650 before he was killed in 656, to be
eclectic, they all deal with "the critical succeeded by Ali, also assassinated in
yet sympathetic exploration of lives 661 (85-92). Mu'awiya ibn Abi Sufyan,
exemplifying . . . courage or integrity, the first Umayyad caliph, sought unity; in
intellect or calculation in the face of 680 at Karbala Ali's son Husayn was
injustice, religious exclusion, and defeated and killed, but the split in Islam
organized plunder" (xxiv-xxv). "hardened into the powerful and
everlasting theological antithesis of
Ch. 1: The Superpowers. Islam rose Shi'ism" (97; 92-98). Umar II repaired
as Rome's imperial misadventure with Umayyad finances (98-101). Musa ibn
Iran (or Persia used here Nusayr brought the Berbers into the fold
interchangeably) caused its fall (3-13). through diplomacy (101-04).
The Byzantine Empire (14-17; Lewis
prefers the term Graeco-Roman). The Ch. 5: The Year 711. The fall of the
Sassanian Golden Age, whose Roman Empire began with the Gothic
achievements in the aftermath of the victory at Adrianople in 378 (105-08).
early 6th c. CE Mazdakite "revolution" The Goths sacked Rome in 410 (108).
were "spores of much of Islamic science, The late-5th-century Visigothic kingdom,
stretching from the Atlantic to the Loire, Ch. 7: The Myth of Poitiers. For many
lost most of its territory in Gaul after years little was known about the Battle of
Clovis's victory at the Battle of Bouillé in Poitiers [also called the Battle of Tours] in
507 (109-11). Visigothic Spain was built 732 except that it was fought "about a
on slavery (111-13). It converted from third of the distance from Poitiers to
Arianism to Roman Catholicism in 589 Tours"; its significance has been
(113-15). Virulent anti-Semitism (115- exaggerated by "choirs of Eurocentric
17). Tariq ibn Ziyad's invasion of historians" (160; 168). In the summer of
Visigothic Hispania in 711 (117-27). 731, after Odo had given his daughter in
Second invasion by Musa ibn Musayr in a marriage of alliance to the Muslim walí
712-713 (127-32). Shortly after Tariq of Cerdanya just across the Pyrenees,
and Musa visited Damascus, Sulayman Charles Martel humiliated Odo militarily ,
became caliph; he tried but failed to take or history might have attributed stopping
Constantinople (132-36). the Muslims to him (161-64). In 732 'Abd
Allah al-Ghafiqi, amir of al-Andalus, set
Ch. 6: Picking Up the Pieces after out to conquer and occupy southwestern
Rome. In retrospect, "the logic of Gaul (165-68). Thanks to the research of
Europe's creation as a coherent culture Maurice Mercier and André Seguin (1944)
and polity inhered in the commencing and Jean-Henry Roy and Jean Deviosse
coordination and collaboration of the (1966), we have "a vivid narrative of the
bishopric of Rome and the regime of the historic combat as it may have unfolded
Catholic Franks," in the early 8th century over a seven-day period that climaxed on
these institutions were still in utero (138; the plain just outside Moussais-la-
137-38). Clovis converted the Franks to Bataille" (168; 168-72). The Chronicle of
Catholicism and expelled the Visigoths 754 (supposedly) by Isidore (or Isidorus)
from Gaul after the Battle of Vouillé, near Pacensis called the victors Europenses,
Poitiers, in 507 (138-41). The Lex Salica the earliest use of 'European' (172). The
became "the founding charter of the victory "must be seen as greatly
evolving European mindset" (142). But contributing to the creation of an
Clovis's Merovingian kingdom collapsed economically retarded, balkanized,
after his death in 511 (142-44). A fratracidal Europe that, in defining itself
Lombard kingdom arose in northern Italy; in opposition to Islam, made virtues out
the Frankish kingdom dwindled (144-47). of religious persecution, cultural
Ignoble origins of Charles Martel (147- particularism, and hereditary aristocracy"
52). Rudimentary economy of the time (174). Arabs and Berbers "would keep
(152-53). The assassination of Musa ibn coming" for "another half century" (175).
Musayr's son in 714 was followed by a The economic, ecclesiastical, and
"prolonged period of political political development of Frankland (from
turbulence . . . al-Andalus . . . due partly the Persian term, Frangistan; more
to power politics swirling around the commonly called Francia, the Frankish
caliphate [in Damascus] and partly to Empire [imperium Francorum] or the
ethnic and tribal conflicts among the Frankish kingdom [regnum Francorum])
Andalusi Berbers and Arabs" (154-55; (175-83).
153-57). Duke Odo of Aquitaine defeated
a Muslim army in the Battle of Toulouse Ch. 8: The Fall and Rise of the
in 721, "a dress rehearsal for a Umayyads. In 741, the year Charles
confrontation a few years later upon Martel died, the Berbers revolted against
which historians have lavished epic the Umayyad Caliphate (184-88). The
significance" (159; 157-59). Syrian Balj ibn Bishr came to al-Andalus
to put down the revolt, but transplanted
the historical feud between northern and
southern Arabs (Qays and Yemenis) (188- into a nation-molding epic of unique,
91). The loss by Hisham I (died 743 CE) perdurable potency. Roncesvalles's
of Berber support deprived Muslim evolving mystique was to Saxony's killing
militaries of soldiers (191-92). Revolts in fields what justification is to homicide.
Iranian Khurasan and Transoxania The historic and brutal Carthaginian
(Uzbekistan) followed (193-94). The first peace eventually inflicted on the forest
Abbasid caliph was declared in 749; tribes living between the Rhine and the
Baghdad displaced Damascus; Persian Elbe was ennobled over time as the work
cultural influence asserted itself (194- of selfless, Christian knighthood
95). A flattering portrait of Abd al- exemplified by Roland's imagined
Rahman ("the Falcon"), founder of the martyrdom" (254). The Song of Roland
Umayyad Emirate of Cordoba, which as genocidal epic (255-59). Roland
endured three centuries (195-202). A served as a precursor to the type of
dazzling era of community, tolerance, upper-class—Frankish—superhero to the
convivencia, liberality to Jews, Western world (260-62). "The Roland
waterwheels, agriculture, trade, price saga . . . frame[s] the contact of
controls, and law (202-07). Christianity and Islam as an epic struggle
that can never end until Muhammad's
Ch. 9: Saving the Popes. The Roman legions will have been run to ground,
church faced extinction in the 8th defeated, and converted to the True
century (209-14). The Franks were a last Faith" (261). The Chanson de Roland
resort, in return for the popes making was "Ur-text for the West" (262). An
king in 754 Pippin the Short, the first atrocity-prone Christianizing campaign
Carolingian, and deposing the against Widukind succeeded in 779-785,
Merovingian line (214-19). The French and Charlemagne promulgated an
church became a political institution and intolerant Saxon Capitulary that "would
"served as the proving ground for the set the standard for correct Christian
rise of a hierarchical, militant religious conduct" (following Richard Fletcher, The
caste" (221; 220-23). Barbarian Conversion [1998]) (267; 262-
68).
Ch. 10: An Empire of Force and
Faith. Carolus overcame his brother Ch. 12: The Great Mosque. Three
Carloman with his mother Bertrada, then years before his death, the enlightened
sidelined her (224-33). His military 'Abd al-Rahman I began the building of
campaigns as Charlemagne rescued the the Great Mosque of Cordoba (785-987
papacy by defeating the Lombards and CE) (268-77). Security and prosperity
created an extensive Carolingian characterized Umayyad Spain, vastly
"superstate" (243; 233-43). His more advanced than society in Frankland
Andalusian campaign (243-50). (277-81).

Ch. 11: Carolingian Jihads: Ch. 13: The First Europe, Briefly. The
Roncesvalles and Saxony. The Carolingian empire defeated the Avars by
aborted Andalusian campaign was "a 795 (282-84). The Spanish March
humiliating reversal of fortune" from provided a barrier to Muslim Spain, but
which Charlemagne recovered in his heretical ideas filtered through, like
victorious campaigns in Saxony (253; Adoptionism (the doctrine that Christ was
251-55). "Had the king's empire-building only the adopted son of God) (284-85).
strategies failed in the aftermath of the As a social order, Charlemagne's empire
retreat from Zaragoza, there would have was "religiously intolerant, intellectually
been no Chanson de Roland, no literary impoverished, socially calcified, and
transmuting of a military embarrassment economically primitive" (286; 286-91).
Muslims could not enslave other Muslims, The Golden Age of Sefarad (Jewish Iberia)
but Christians justified enslaving other in the 10th and 11th centuries CE,
Christians (287). But Christianity personified in the diplomat and physician
imposed monogamy (290-91). Alcuin Hasdai ibn Shaprut (915-970 CE) (330-
and the beginning of Western learning 32).
(292-95). Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) (296-
98). The problem of the role of the Ch. 15: Disequilibrium, Pelayo's
Church (299-300). Adrian I crowned Revenge. Despite its prosperity, in 976-
Charlemagne emperor of the Romans in 1009 CE Umayyad al-Andalus entered
800, sowing the first seed of what would upon a period of fateful decline, with Abi
become the secularism of the West (300- Amir, a chancellor (hajib), dominating a
03). weak caliph (Hisham) and using the
chieftain of the military police who would
Ch. 14: Equipoise—Delicate and be known to history as al-Mansur ('the
Doomed. The cosmopolitan Victorious') to turn al-Andalus into "a
sophistication of Cordoba in the late 8th dictatorship," producing military and
century CE (304-07). Hisham I, facing political triumphs that included the sack
Carolingian designs on Catalunya of Santiago de Compostela on Aug. 10,
(Catalonia) and constant military 997, and that would eventually prove
pressure from the north, declared a jihad fatally counterproductive (337; 333-41).
in 793 CE that was continued in 796 by Al-Mansur's son pried the hereditary
al-Hakam (307-12). 'Abd al-Rahman II caliphate away from Hisham (341-43).
(822-52 CE) prospered; Charlemagne's Beginning in 1009, the Umayyad
empire fractured in sibling rivalry as the Caliphate disintegrated into a politically
Norsemen attacked, a collapse ratified in dysfunctional but culturally innovative
the Treaty of Verdun (843 CE) (312-14). era of "ta'ifas, leaders of [Muslim] city-
Fanatical Christians, fearful of the states in a vaccuum. They were the
successes of a tolerant Islam, began the 'party kings' or 'petty kings' (muluk al-
aggressive resistance that would become tawaif or reyes de ta'ifas) of Toledo,
the Reconquista in 844 at Clavijo, in Badajoz, Sevilla, Granada, Valencia,
Castile; this was continued by the Zaragoza, and more than a dozen other
Mozarabs (315-19). After a late-9th- locales" (346; 343-51). To the north,
century decline, al-Andalus saw a Navarre consolidated power under
glorious period under 'Abd al-Rahman III Ferdinand I and a militant movement
(912-961 CE) as France declined, losing animated by a spirit radiating from
part of the kingdom to the Norsemen monastic movements and papal
(Normany), and Magyars impinged on imperialism overcame the ta'ifa
German-speaking territories (319-21). kingdoms; Toledo fell in 1085 CE to
The 9th and 10th centuries were a period Alfonso VI (the Brave) of Castile, "the
of "delicate equipoise" of Christian and beginning of the end [in 1492 CE] of
Muslim Europe (321-24). 'Abd al-Rahman Islam's long sojourn in Europe" (357;
II declared a caliphate in 929 CE (324). 351-57). The coming of "the fanatical
Cordoba had a library of 400,000 Almoravids" (the Murabit) and later "the
volumes of paper mss. when St. Gall had mystical Almohads—al-Muwahhidun ('the
"a mere six hundred books, all of them in Unitarians')" from North Africa
vellum (calfskin) or parchement temporarily reversed the decline in the
(sheepskin)" (326). Its military ardor was late 11th and 12th centuries (357-66).
declining (327). Gerbert of Aurillac
mastered Arab mathemathics and Ch. 16: Knowledge Transmitted,
published a revolutionary four-page Rationalism Repudiated: Ibn Rushd
textbook in the West in 980 (328-29). and Musa Ibn Maymun. Andalusian
intellectual culture, centered in Cordoba, 448). [Only one article from a scholarly
created "a basis of knowledge that would journal, oddly.]
provide the foundation for the
Renaissance in Christendom"; the Credits. For illustrations and
transfer of knowledge was accelerated by genealogical tables (449).
the political collapse of Umayyad Spain,
(368-69; 367-70). The rationalism of Ibn Index. 21 pp.
Rushd (Averroës) and of Musa ibn
Maymun (Maimonides or Moshe ben About the Author. David Levering
Maimon), who wrote in Arabic except for Lewis is Julius Silver University Professor
the Mishneh Torah, his digest of Jewish at New York University. He is the author
law (371-77). But world history was of a Pulitzer Prize-winning two-volume
moving in another direction: in 1212, at biography of W.E.B. Du Bois. Lewis grew
Las Navas de Tolosa, "the first war fought up in Wilberforce, OH, and Atlanta, GA.
by Christians and Muslims exclusively as He defines himself as a student of
Muslims and Christians—a war between comparative history. In the spring of
civilizations; three years later Pope 2008, when this book was published, he
Innocent III's Fourth Lateran Council was a fellow of the American Academy in
extended Charlemagne's intolerant Berlin.
Saxon Capitulary "to all of Christendom"
(377-79). Ferdinand III of Castile [Additional information. David
occupied Cordoba in 1236 CE (379). Levering Lewis was born on May 25,
1936, in Little Rock, Arkansas. His
Acknowledgments. This volume was mother was a HS math teacher and his
conceived six months before Sept. 11, father a HS principal. — He graduated
2001, as a small book (381). UCLA's Iran Phi Beta Kappa at the age of 19 from Fisk
expert, Nikki Keddie, Princeton's Bernard University in 1956. He holds a 1959 M.A.
Lewis and William Jordan, Arizona State's in history from Columbia and a 1962
Chouki El Hamel (381). Other scholars Ph.D. in modern European and French
and libraries (381-82). Research history from the London School of
assistants (382-83). Foundations and Economics. — He served in the U.S.
friends (383). Publisher (383-84). Army in 1962-1963. He has taught at the
Univ. of Ghana, Morgan State Univ. in
Notes. 38 pp. Baltimore, the Univ. of Notre Dame,
Howard Univ., the Univ. of California at
Glossary. 9 pp. [About 220 terms San Diego, Harvard, and, from 1985 to
briefly glossed.] 2003, at Rutgers. He is the author of the
first academic biography of Martin Luther
Genealogies. Descendants of Pippin King Jr. (1970), and in 1994 won the
and Alpaida (434). Zirid Rulers of Ta'ifa Bancroft Prize and the Francis Parkman
Granada (ca. 1026-1090) (435). Prize. He was president of the Society of
Almoravid Rulers in al-Andalus (ca. 1086- American Historians in 2002, and is on
1145) (435). Almohad Rulers in al- the board of the NAACP's magazine, The
Andalus (ca.1121-1223). Umayyad Amirs Crisis. He was named a Macarthur Fellow
and Caliphs in Cordoba (756-1031) in 1999. — He is also the author of
(436). Rulers of Asturias-León, Then Prisoners of Honor: the Dreyfus Affair
Portugal, León, and Castile (8th-13th (1974), District of Columbia: A
centuries) (437). Bicentennial History (1976), The Race for
Fashoda: European Colonization and
Bibliography. 10 pp. Primary; African Resistance in the Scramble for
Reference Volumes; Secondary (439- Africa (1987), When Harlem Was in
Vogue (1981), and, with Deborah Willis, with an enlightened, suave 'Abd al-
of A Small Nation of People: W.E.B. Du Rahman I. — Many reviewers have
Bois & African American Portraits of concluded that Lewis "overstates his
Progress (2003). He edited The Harlem case," as Ed Voves said in the California
Renaissance Reader (1994). — He is Literary Review, and it's true.
married to a professor of public policy at Unpleasant traits of Frankish leaders are
NYT (Ruth Ann Stewart). He has three unrelentingly emphasized, those of
adult children from his first marriage.] Muslim leaders are universally softened
or excused (e.g. "Crucifixions and
[Critique. This book is a welcome expulsions were regrettable aspects of
corrective to the standard Eurocentric [al-Hakam's] nation-building.
account of the Middle Ages. Lewis writes Enlightened despotism was the
the dense prose of a mandarin historian, alternative to rule by the consensus of
with magisterial periods and ornate classes or rule by the oligarchy of
formulations, but James Reston Jr. was affluent familes . . ." [311]). — Lewis
overly harsh when he spoke of "stilted has also produced a text bereft of
academic prose" in his review in the historical consciousness to an extent that
Washington Post. However, God's seems deliberate. His narrative is
Crucible, Lewis's first foray into pre- replete with anachronistic attributions of
modern history, leaves something to be mental states and motivations. Lewis
desired. The notes for this imagines premodern leaders were
extraordinarily far-ranging work show preoccupied with "grand strategy" (253,
that supporting documentation (largely another anachronism). Lewis also has a
secondary sources; journal articles are taste for anachronistic metaphors as well
rare) is thin. Footnotes sometimes do —"speed bump," "conveyer belt," etc. All
not correspond to the text. — More these devices are designed to reach the
disturbingly, Lewis often chooses an contemporary reader. — In short, Lewis
interpretation that hews to a is very much on a mission, and while it
predetermined narrative and does not may be a laudable one, his methods do
deeply scrutinize the historical record or not always stand up to scrutiny. The
interpretative debates among historians. book has, unsurprisingly, been skewered
Lewis is, in fact, a traditionalist historian, by critics on the right like "Fjordman,"
not a 'mythistorian' at all, pace the title the anonymous but influential Norwegian
of Ch. 7. Though he decenters the Islamaphobe, who devoted a long
narrative, he does not allow critique to the book when it came out in
postmodernist indeterminacy to trouble mid-2008. Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles
the confident progress of his history, Times was also hard on the book,
which depends on traditional political complaining that Lewis is "in thrall to an
history and is intent on inventing a new idealized Umayyad Spain." But Kwame
myth, one that instructs Westerners Anthony Appiah gave the book a more
about their indebtedness to Muslim favorable review in the New York Review
civilization and about the ruthlessly of Books, calling it "rich and engaging"
blood-soaked origins of Christian Europe. with an "uplifting message."]
A brutal, uncouth Charlemagne contrasts