In an effort to make sense of God's apparent abandonment of Christendom in favor of a dynamic and expanding Muslim civilization, European writers distorted the teachings of Islam and caricatured its believers in a variety of ways. What ideological purposes did these portrayals serve? And how, in turn, did Muslims view Christianity? Tolan shows how Christian responses to Islam changed from the seventh to thirteenth centuries, through fast-charging crusades and spirit-crushing defeats, crystallizing into polemical images later drawn upon by Western authors in the fourteenth to twentieth centuries.
Tolan, whose earlier work is devoted to the Muslims in Spain, has gathered Western medieval sources up to 1300 describing Islam, both the religion and its adherents, and attempting to comprehend Islam's place in the world. Chapters on the 13th century analyze the writing of the missionary Ramon Llull, the views of other missionaries, and the official views of their orders, the Franciscans and the Dominicans. Writings included from the 7th- 13th centuries consider the Muslims in Spain, Islam as heresy (a constant motif), stereotypes that ascribe practices of pagan idolatry to Muslims, and the Crusades to the Holy Land. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)