September 10, 2014

Paul M. Cobb's New Book on the Crusades

Paul M. Cobb, Professor of Islamic history in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, has just published *The Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades* with Oxford University Press. The book is intended to offer a new and accessible history of the confrontations between Muslims and Europeans we now call the "Crusades," one that emphasizes the diversity of Muslim experiences of European holy war on all shores of the Muslim Mediterranean, from Spain to Syria. In the process, Cobb shows that this is not a straightforward story of warriors and kings clashing in the Holy Land, but a more complicated tale of border-crossers and turncoats; of embassies and merchants; of scholars and spies, all of them seeking to manage a new threat from the barbarian fringes of their ordered world. When seen from the perspective of medieval Muslims, the Crusades emerge as something altogether different from the high-flying rhetoric of the European chronicles: as a cultural encounter to ponder, a diplomatic chess-game to be mastered, a commercial opportunity to be seized, and as so often happened, a political challenge to be exploited by ambitious rulers making canny use of the language of jihad.