God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades is Stark's attempt to redress the imbalance in Crusader history. Stark not only reviews the several major Crusades from 1095 to 1291, he also explores the history of the Muslim occupation of formerly Christian lands in the Middle East since the seventh century. The status quo in Crusader historiography is to explain the Crusades as the beginning of European colonialism. Barbarian Christians from the 'dark ages' victimized the cultivated and tolerant Muslims of the Middle East in the European quest for land (especially all those un-landed second sons), treasure and converts.
In contrast, Stark argues that the Crusades arouse out of a deep devotion from the Christians in response to centuries of Muslim aggression towards Christian nations and pilgrims. His central thesis is:
"The Crusades were not unprovoked. They were not the first round of European colonialism. They were not conducted for land, loot or converts. The Crusaders sincerely believed that they served in God's battalions."Stark also wants to argue that the 'Dark Ages' were much more technologically and culturally advanced than we often recognize. He also contends with the idea that ancient wisdom and philosophy was passed down to the West from Islam. It is both convincing and balanced. Philip Jenkins, author of The Lost History of Christianity (reviewed by me here) writes:
"Through his many books, Rodney Stark has made us rethink so much of what we had assumed about the history of Christianity and its relations with other faiths, and now God's Battalions launches a frontal assault on the comfortable myths that scholars have popularized about the Crusades. The results are startling. His greatest achievement is to make us see the Crusaders on their own terms."With so much Islamic and atheist propaganda directed towards the Crusades, where Christians are portrayed as brutal colonizers, this 248 page book is worth picking up and engaging with our history.