“Europe and the Islamic World” offers a crucial and poised evaluation of a momentous meeting

Europe and the Islamic World: A History is commended in a review by Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s first English-language newspaper founded in 1975:

Understanding complex ties between Muslim states, Europe

Lisa Kaaki
Wednesday 17 July 2013

This detailed history of Europe and the Islamic world is the latest of a series of attempts to understand the complex relations between Muslim countries and Europe. Co-authored by a trio of French historians, this book not only highlights the common roots between Islamic and Western cultures but it also maintains an impartial profile until the very end.

This history of Europe and the Islamic world is divided in three distinct parts. In the first five chapters, John Tolan tackles, “Saracens and Ifranj: Rivalries, Emulation, and Convergences.” In the second part, Gilles Veinstein introduces us to “The Great Turk and Europe” and Henry Laurens in the last part focuses on “Europe and the Muslim World in the Contemporary Period.”

John Esposito sets the tone of this scholarly work in his excellent foreword. Known for his objective and unbiased thinking, the American scholar presents a remarkable and clear summary of the book’s main points.

He is quick to underline the common political and religious struggle for power, waged by both, the West and Islam. The Muslims claim to have the final revelation threatened directly the role of Christianity to be: the only means to salvation. Moreover, Christendom also saw the rapid expansion of Islam as a “political and civilizational challenge to its religious and political hegemony.”

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Europe and the Islamic World: A History by John Tolan, Henry Laurens & Gilles VeinsteinEurope and the Islamic World sheds much-needed light on the shared roots of Islamic and Western cultures and on the richness of their inextricably intertwined histories, refuting once and for all the misguided notion of a “clash of civilizations” between the Muslim world and Europe. In this landmark book, three eminent historians bring to life the complex and tumultuous relations between Genoans and Tunisians, Alexandrians and the people of Constantinople, Catalans and Maghrebis–the myriad groups and individuals whose stories reflect the common cultural, intellectual, and religious heritage of Europe and Islam.

Since the seventh century, when the armies of Constantinople and Medina fought for control of Syria and Palestine, there has been ongoing contact between the Muslim world and the West. This sweeping history vividly recounts the wars and the crusades, the alliances and diplomacy, commerce and the slave trade, technology transfers, and the intellectual and artistic exchanges. Here readers are given an unparalleled introduction to key periods and events, including the Muslim conquests, the collapse of the Byzantine Empire, the commercial revolution of the medieval Mediterranean, the intellectual and cultural achievements of Muslim Spain, the crusades and Spanish reconquest, the rise of the Ottomans and their conquest of a third of Europe, European colonization and decolonization, and the challenges and promise of this entwined legacy today.

As provocative as it is groundbreaking, this book describes this shared history in all its richness and diversity, revealing how ongoing encounters between Europe and Islam have profoundly shaped both.

John Tolan is professor of history at the Université de Nantes. His books include Saracens and Saint Francis and the Sultan. Gilles Veinstein (1945-2013) was professor of history at the Collège de France. He is the author of Merchants in the Ottoman Empire. Henry Laurens is professor of history at the Collège de France. He is the author of L’empire et ses ennemis: La question impériale dans l’histoire.