The Race for Paradise: Book summary and reviews of The Race for Paradise by Paul M. Cobb

The Race for Paradise

An Islamic History of the Crusades

by Paul M. Cobb

The Race for Paradise by Paul M. Cobb X
The Race for Paradise by Paul M. Cobb
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Book Summary

In 1099, when the first Frankish invaders arrived before the walls of Jerusalem, they had carved out a Christian European presence in the Islamic world that endured for centuries, bolstered by subsequent waves of new crusaders and pilgrims. The story of how this group of warriors, driven by faith, greed, and wanderlust, created new Christian-ruled states in parts of the Middle East is one of the best-known in history. Yet it is offers not even half of the story, for it is based almost exclusively on Western sources and overlooks entirely the perspective of the crusaded. How did medieval Muslims perceive what happened?

In The Race for Paradise, Paul M. Cobb offers a new history of the confrontations between Muslims and Franks we now call the "Crusades," one that emphasizes the diversity of Muslim experiences of the European holy war. There is more to the story than Jerusalem, the Templars, Saladin, and the Assassins. Cobb considers the Arab perspective on all shores of the Muslim Mediterranean, from Spain to Syria. In the process, he 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.

An engrossing synthesis of history and scholarship, The Race for Paradise fills a significant historical gap, considering in a new light the events that distinctively shaped Muslim experiences of Europeans until the close of the Middle Ages.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Cobb's multidisciplinary approach illuminates the experience of invaded societies in their chaotic and climactic contacts with the Other." - Publishers Weekly

"This is an excellent book - lucid, insightful and informative." - Jonathan Phillips, author of Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades

"Thoroughly researched, highly original and above all a pleasure to read - a superb overview for the general and the specialized reader alike that sets the Crusades within the larger framework of Islamic history." - Konrad Hirschler, SOAS, University of London; author of The Written Word in the Medieval Arabic Lands

"Indispensable for anyone interested in understanding the Crusades and the Muslim World at that time." - Suleiman A. Mourad, Smith College

"Lively and enjoyable reading, Paul Cobb's Race for Paradise also offers new insights into the well-worn territory of Crusades history, particularly by showing how the Crusades were part of a broader penetration of Latin Christian powers into the Mediterranean world in the second half of the eleventh century." - Hugh Kennedy, SOAS, University of London

This information about The Race for Paradise shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Paul M. Cobb

Paul M. Cobb is Professor of Islamic History in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of White Banners: Contention in Abbasid Syria, 750-880 and Umayyad Legacies: Medieval Memories from Syria to Spain.

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