The book is 667 pages long broken into short, quick, readable chapters covering global history from the 4th century AD to the 13th. Bauer is a writer and historian and faculty member at William and Mary University [see susanwisebauer.com]. This book on the medieval world could have been an excellent summation of the world, which covers a gigantic period one full of change, innovation, war, political-economic mutation and socio-environmental upheaval. Bauer's book might have been a magnificent compendium considering the rather Napoleonic ambitions of the project. The problem is Islam and her views of its founder and its spread. The cultural Marxism and impurity of what she writes about Mohammed and Islam essentially destroys 500 pages of other information, which is highly valuable and well-written.
The book is chronologically based and cut up into small chapters of 5-10 pages on each region during its long survey period of nearly 1000 years. On the positive side, China, India, Africa, Latin America, as well as the North Atlantic regions and Russia are covered. Given this architectural reality, the various chapters cannot be too detailed or mired in too much obscurantism. This must be plain, direct and get to the main issues quickly. This is important. Too many texts delve into arcane and truly deranged theorizing, detail, or suppositions – much of which is not supported by archaeology, facts, common-sense, or independent investigation. Bauer's self-imposed limitation of space is an asset. Yet she still engages in a-historical Marxist rants and revisionism when it comes to Islam and Arab imperialism. This is in essence destroys the value of the work.
It must be said that many of the chapters on non-Muslim, Arab, or Turkish histories are excellent. Bauer is quite at home when discussing the late days of the Roman empire, the irruptions into Europe of the violent and untutored clans and tribes such as the Huns, Avars, or Northmen; the development of Russia, or the various phases of Byzantine glory and decline. She is also very well studied and erudite in Asian and African history. Many facts rendered in this book are novel, or little discussed, adding flavor and stimulation for the reader. But alas she fails horribly with Islam, the Arabs, and Mohammed.
The two poorest chapters of this book deal with Mohammed. One named the 'Prophet' is simply terrible. It is false, mendacious, inaccurate and looks like it was written for Bauer by an Arab-Muslim apologist and hypocrite from CAIR, Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood. It contains only one interesting and arresting artifact. The rich Sabean kingdom, famous from the times of Queen Sheba or Queen Sabea of Solomon fame, collapsed in about 590 AD when the main dam, which captured water and was used for irrigation, broke. This destruction eradicated the large center of Sabea and some 50.000 people became migrants. Many went to Medina and Mecca. This created a torrent of social and economic tensions. How to support such a wave of people in a desolate, desert country? How to grant charity to these poor travelers? What to do with them and how to house them and keep them busy? As with today's illegal waves of migratory welfare-state and economic-asylum seekers, the Sabean emigration must have put a very large strain indeed on Arab life.
Into this world Mohammed was born circa 570 AD. Civil and tribal wars were being fought over controlling trade routes and political power. Mohammed was born into the ruling tribe of Mecca, a city rich from pilgrims visiting the Kabaa shrine which housed the 365 celestial deities which all Arabs worshipped. The male moon deity Al-Allah was guarded by Mohammed's family, taken care of, given ritual offerings and kept happy. So it was with all the sky objects worshipped by Arabs as gods.
Mohammed's life is a study in opportunism, political ruthlessness, war, insanity, immorality, slave-trading, polygamy, hypocrisy and the creation of the most intolerant, racist and supremacist tract in history – the Koran. Islam was and is a political project, designed to allow male Arab Muslims to dominate society, reduce Jews and Christians and 'others' to second-class tax-slave status; render the woman subservient to the man; and establish a totalitarian control over society using the Koran, and Koranic law as tools of oppression. That was and is Mohammed's program.
But not for Bauer and the academic class that she obviously represents. For these people deluded and divorced from reality, Mohammed was love, hope, charity and the champion of the poor. Such a fable could come right out of the writings and preachings of the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hizbollah, ISNA, MSA, Islamic Imam's and the thousands of mosques in Europe and North America. It is vapid and anti-reality, and serves little purpose but to make and disguise real, militant, proselytizing and violent Islam.
Bauer relates the usual academic-cultural Marxist litany about poor Mohammed, who born into an impoverished sub-tribe of the Quraysh tribe, which ruled Mecca; and from an early age was apparently so verily concerned with the poor and the gap between the rich and the have-nots. In this fantasy, little Mohammed was a fighter for the dispossessed, yearning to right societal wrongs, enforce charity so the suffering would suffer no more; and a man who desired nothing else but egalitarian love and hope.
“Mohammed devout by nature, took it upon himself to spend one sacred month of each year providing for the poor; his biographer Ishaq tells us that he would pray, give food to all the poverty-stricken residents of Mecca who came to him, and then walk around the Ka'aba seven times.” [p. 277]
Ah, tears come to the eyes. The man who according to the Hadiths went insane at age 40, is re-casted by Bauer as some pious monk, self-flagellating over the needy and unwashed. Oh please.
“For the rest of his life, Muhammad would struggle to receive, and interpret, and then to pass on the revelations of God....and he was [a Muslim] to pursue personal purity, piety, and morality, all of which were already prescribed by Arab sacred practice.”
None of this is true. The Koran was made up by Mohammed to justify his political adventurism which included brigandage, the sacking of caravans, the killing of those taken in raids, and warring against Jews, Mecca, Christians and Arab animists. Bauer does not relate any of this. She does not discuss the odd incongruity, that the supposed monkish, devout Mohammed, warred during the Arab holy month of Ramadan [which Allah conveniently allowed with a 'revelation']; led 80 some expeditions of war; murdered people with his own hands; owned and traded slaves; destroyed and eradicated whole Jewish tribes; and had murderers eliminate poets, writers and anyone else who disobeyed his rule. None of these facts are in Bauer's account. Mohammed's 630 AD takeover of Mecca was achieved with an army of 10.000 men. The Kabaa shrine, so sacred to the moon worshipping Arabs and full of treasure, was sacked by Mohammed himself, all the idols bar Al-Allah, his family moon deity destroyed, and the booty given to his followers. This fact also does not merit mention in Bauer's 'history'.
Any serious study of Mohammed reveals that the was the opposite of a Christ like figure. Robert Spencer's book on the real Mohammed is a much better read, if you want to know about the true history of Islam's insane founder. How can anyone who concocted either Islam or the Koran be normal? Mohammed was a political adventurer, hungry for power, and born in a time of social change within Arabia. Clans and tribes were fighting for control of trade and society, and Mohammed was no different, than any other military-political adventurer at the time.
Mohammed's key advantage in comparison with other claimants to power was his innovative and illiterate combination of Judeo-Christian monotheism with Arab paganism to create the supremacist cult of Al-Allah, or the male moon deity of Mecca. Another key difference was his utter ruthlessness in shedding blood, starting wars, breaking contracts, his racist Jew-hate; and his animus towards Blacks [many Black slaves existed in Mohammed's time throughout Arabia]. Maybe Mohammed can be ranked as one of history's more important military and political leaders. But he was no prophet and Islam is not a religion, but simply an Arab fascist cult dedicated to world domination and death.
Parts of Bauer's book are excellent – especially the chapters on Western Europe and Byzantium. But its major flaw is as with most writings today, the utterly absurd and revisionist interpretation of Islam, its founder, and Arab-Muslim imperialism. Too bad. This cultural Marxist myopia invalidates what should have been a very fine work.