Sea of Faith

Sea of Faith

Islam and Christianity in the Medieval Mediterranean World

Book - 2006
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Stephen O'Shea writes books in which he becomes part of the places where his history happened. His eye and his acute sense of place have produced great writing. This history is built around seven battles. He begins with Yarmuk, in 636, and the early conflicts of Islam, and ends with the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the defence of Malta in 1565. Sea of Faith is beguiling even when the power of the writing sometimes overwhelms the subject. Others have journeyed through this past, and some of the same places. But O'Shea does it better, and more memorably.
Publisher: Vancouver : Douglas & McIntyre, 2006.
ISBN: 9781553651796
1553651790
Branch Call Number: 909.0982 OSH
Characteristics: xii, 411 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.

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AQUILEA777
Jul 21, 2016

An unwieldy procession of details.
O'Shea's theme is engaging: the clash in war, and cooperation in trade and culture, of Christian and Muslim forces in the Medieval Mediterranean.
He suggests that religious motivation in this long interaction is exaggerated: most leaders were simply out for themselves, with many ad hoc alliances and even marriages across the religious divide. The invasions of Mongols and Tamerlane produced especially strange alignments.
But his tale ends with the famous defense of Malta by the Knights of St John against the Ottoman horde in 1565, 450 years ago, where religion was paramount on the Christian side at least. He briefly mentions the battle of Lepanto but omits the siege of Cyprus, the siege of Crete, the second siege of Vienna, the Austrian reconquest, the Russian advance, the revolt of the Balkans, the fall and dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire, Western imperialism across North Africa and the Near East, the ravagement of Palestinians and imposition of Israel and its wars. Nor does he cover the US-led demolition of Muslim states since 9/11.
Clearly the sometime Medieval modus vivendi that O'Shea stresses did not lead to subsequent peace and stability.
In our day, Christians and Jews have shown scant respect for Muslim peoples and nations, which are fine if allied to us, but lack inherent humanity and can always be disposed of.
Muslim immigrants meanwhile reject Western mores, and a few go mad with violence against the intolerable spectacle of female freedom.
The old religious incompatibility still exists and probably did throughout.
O'Shea's copyright is 2006. Would he take the same view today? He praises the liberality of Turkey. Would he do so under the current Islamist Erdogan dictatorship, aid to Islamic State, and ongoing purge?

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