Sea of Faith: Islam and Christianity in the medieval Mediterranean world

“A glittering insight into hostile faiths”

Murrough O’Brian reviews the new book by Stephen O’Shea, in The Independent:

OsheaIn one of his tales, the writer Ivo Andric, Catholic Serb in Muslim-dominated Bosnia, asserts that most great conflicts begin in the struggle between older and younger brothers. In The Sea of Faith, Stephen O’Shea finds a metaphor for Muslim/Christian relations in “two sons struggling over the inheritance”; the father being Judaism. And that insight – a convincing one – is just the start. In concentrating his attention on the medieval maritime phase of this grand contention, O’Shea reminds us that it was a characteristically Mediterrean conflict, its violent squalls alternating with benign discussion in the shade of an olive tree.

This seemingly cosmetic shift of perspective has vast ramifications: you stop thinking of Muslim and Christian states, even of spheres of influence, since these shift all over the place. Every page carries a glittering freight of insight, detail and sometimes caustic observation. The breadth of research is intimidating, but the author tells his story with an engaging blend of swagger and sensitivity. You are caught up by this vast wave of learning, but never cast down.

O’Shea has walked the walk, quite literally. He has visited the battlefields on foot, and relays to the reader the very different fashions in which they have been commemorated.

More here.  And other reviews here and here.  [Thanks to Sughra Raza.]