Religion is a shield against life’s assaults. But it is also a “terrible swift sword” unsheathed against the perceived enemies of divine righteousness. As a student of religious history, I have long been fascinated with the dual faces of devotion, especially religion’s sanctification of violence, but for many years did not expand my investigation of holy war beyond the boundaries of Christianity and Islam. That changed abruptly in 2003, while offering a seminar on the crusades at the Global History Center in Beijing. Discussion of Portuguese and Spanish crusades in the Indian Ocean and the Americas prompted a student, who was pursuing a PhD in global history, to ask if there are forms of holy war other than crusades and jihads that a world historian should be aware of. I was momentarily stumped, but promised a reply the next day.
Above Image: Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-82)- Jehane le Pucelle. Source: Wikimedia
The following selection of text was cut from an early draft of Chapter 3, “Holy Wars in Defense of the Sacred,” in the forthcoming book (expected March 2021) Sanctified Violence: Holy War in World History. Rather than discarding it, the authors, Alfred J. Andrea, emeritus professor of history at the University of Vermont, and Andrew Holt, professor of history at Florida State College at Jacksonville, wanted to make it available here. The book, aimed primarily at a student readership, explores the various types of wars waged in the name of religion that have occurred around the world over the past 5,000 years. It will be offered by Hackett Publishing as part of their Critical Themes in World History Series. Please see more information about the project below.
Hackett Publishing has kindly given permission to reproduce the following source selections from my friend and senior colleague Alfred J. Andrea’s excellent sourcebook, The Medieval Record: Sources of Medieval History (Second Revised Edition). This more than 500-page book contains numerous important sources from Ancient Rome to the discovery of the New World, with many of them original translations by Professor Andrea. The sources provided here include:
Matthew Paris, The Greater Chronicle: An Entry for 1241
Ivo of Narbonne’s Confession
Matthew Paris’ Illustration of The Tartar Feast
Each of the sources offers fascinating insights into how European Christians during the thirteenth century understood the Mongols and the ferocity of their attacks on various peoples. The depictions are detailed, graphic, and fearful. Of special interest is the image of The TartarFeast provided at the end of Ivo of Narbonne’s letter. Professor Andrea’s helpful introductory text and “Questions for Consideration” precede the sources immediately below: Continue reading →
While working on a book (Sanctified Violence: Holy War in World History) for Hackett Publishing that considers holy war in a broader world history context (co-authored with my friend and senior historian Alfred J. Andrea), I have spent the last year considering considering the various modes and types of holy war that have taken place within different faith traditions. Professor Andrea, as the former head of the World History Association and a leading world historian, has been a wonderful guide in directing me to important readings in areas beyond my normal research focus (Christian and Islamic holy war).
Two books I have read recently that may appeal to some of you who are interested in the broader topic of holy war are Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun and Buddha’s Warriors: The Story of the CIA Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet (both pictured above). Continue reading →
I first met Professor Paul Jentz at the World History Association annual conference in Savannah, Georgia in 2015. Alfred J. Andrea and I were serving as co-series editors of the newly formed Myths of History Series for Hackett Publishing, and Al wanted us to meet as he had been very impressed with Paul in his previous dealings through the WHA and elsewhere. Paul had a unique charm and cerebral wittiness that made him every bit as likable as Al had suggested. More significantly, he understood and appreciated the goals of the Myths of History Series well, which focuses on producing works that dispel popular historical myths and are geared toward use in the college or university classroom.
After meeting and speaking with Paul in Savannah, we came away very impressed and, after some follow up emails, Paul submitted a book proposal that resulted in a book contract. Later in the process, as Paul began to submit chapters, we were especially happy with the quality and clarity of Paul’s writing. Indeed, as I read through the rough drafts of various chapters, I was, at times, finding myself dispelled of myths about Native American history that I had previously embraced on some level. Our appreciation for Paul’s work was confirmed when Hackett sent the manuscript to important outside readers, including Colin G. Calloway at Dartmouth College and Andrae Marak at Governors State University, who noted the following: Continue reading →
Alfred J. Andrea and I (as series editors) encourage any teaching historians who have an idea for a new book in the series to contact us to discuss it. Please email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Hackett Publishing.
Alan V. Murray on Seven Myths of the Crusades
“There has long been a great need for a book like this one, and it deserves a wide dissemination among the interested reading public and journalists as well as students and professional historians….anyone intending to make judgmental pronouncements on the aims and character of crusading would do well to read it and reflect carefully before rushing into print.”
—Alan V. Murray, University of Leeds
As seen in the video below, I recently had the chance to interview my colleague, Dr. Wesley Moody at Florida State College at Jacksonville, on the popular myths of the U.S. Civil War. Wes is an expert on the U.S. Civil War and has published his fourth book (forthcoming from Hackett Publishing) on the topic with a series I am co-editing with Dr. Alfred J. Andrea. The book includes the contributions of seven leading U.S. historians considering some of the most controversial issues related to U.S. Civil War history. We soberly discuss them here.
Special thanks to Professor Isaac Brown and his students at Florida State College at Jacksonville, particularly Lance Hunt, for their efforts in producing this. I hope we can make more of these on other key topics in the future.
“Readers of this book who thought they knew a lot about the U.S. Civil War will discover that much of what they ‘knew’ is wrong. For readers whose previous knowledge is sketchy but whose desire to learn is strong, the separation of myth from reality is an important step toward mastering the subject. The essays will generate lively discussion and new insights.”
—James M. McPherson, Professor Emeritus, Princeton University
In the recently published Seven Myths of the Civil War(Hackett Publishing Co.), one of the book’s six authors, Ian Patrick Hunt, confronts head on the dual issue of Abraham Lincoln’s private opinions and official positions regarding African Americans. Through his nuanced analysis of the evolution of Abraham Lincoln’s thoughts and actions, Ian Patrick Hunt puts to rest the oft-repeated charge that the sixteenth president of the United States was a racist. But the question remains, was he “The Emancipator,” as this statue in Park Plaza, Boston proclaims? Known as both the Emancipation Memorial and the Freedmen’s Memorial (due to the original’s having been funded by freed slaves), this copy of Thomas Bell’s statue was presented to the city in 1879. The original stands near Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Consider its imagery. A larger-than-life Lincoln places his right hand on the Emancipation Proclamation that rests on a pedestal, thereby bringing to mind his presidential inauguration when he placed his hand on a Bible. Assuming a heroic yet benign posture, he towers over a kneeling former slave. Unseen in this photograph, a whipping post draped in cloth stands behind the two men. This is a powerful statement, but how true is it? Continue reading →
As Brooks D. Simson convincingly demonstrates in the recently published Seven Myths of the Civil War (Hackett Publishing, Sept. 2017), the claim that African Americans served, in any appreciable numbers, as combatants in Confederate forces has no basis in fact. It is, however, an incontrovertible fact that nearly 200,000 African Americans voluntarily served in the Union forces, acquitted themselves with devotion and honor, and were a significant factor in hastening the end of the war. Continue reading →