"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, March 15, 2021

Christians under the Crescent and Muslims under the Cross c.630 - 1923

I previously posted a brief notice about this book, Christians under the Crescent and Muslims under the Cross c.630 - 1923 by Luigi Berto (Routledge, 2020), 178pp. I have now had a chance to read it, and as soon as I did made the decision on the spot to adopt it for my course Eastern Christian Encounters with Islam. It is the rare book that does all the things I need a book to do for teaching undergraduates, but this book superbly accomplishes them all:

  • it is written in cogent, clear English
  • it is without an obvious agenda, especially an apologetic one
  • it is relatively brief
  • it avoids getting lost in the notes and apparatus, which undergrads often find bewildering
  • it captures the messiness of history--the "nobody has clean hands" approach
  • it is reasonably affordable in a paperback edition.
My course has struggled over the years to find suitable texts. Some are far too apologetic and almost polemical; some are only partially useful; some were useful for a time but more recent scholarship or events on the ground (e.g., the Arab Spring) made much of them out of date. So to find this book is a great gift and I am very much looking forward to teaching with it.

The publisher's description of the book follows:

This book examines the status that rulers of one faith conferred onto their subjects belonging to a different one, how the rulers handled relationships with them, and the interactions between subjects of the Muslim and Christian religions.

The chronological arc of this volume spans from the first conquests by the Arabs in the Near East in the 630s to the exchange between Turkey and Greece, in 1923, of the Orthodox Christians and Muslims residing in their territories. Through organized topics, Berto analyzes both similarities and differences in Christian and Muslim lands and emphasizes how coexistences and conflicts took directions that were not always inevitable. Primary sources are used to examine the mentality of those who composed them and of their audiences. In doing so, the book considers the nuances and all the features of the multifaceted experiences of Christian subjects under Muslim rule and of Muslim subjects under Christian rule.

Christians under the Crescent and Muslims under the Cross is the ideal resource for upper-level undergraduates, postgraduates, and scholars interested in the relationships between Christians and Muslims, religious minorities, and the Near East and the Mediterranean from the Middle Ages to the early twentieth century.

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