French    German    Spain    Italian    Arabic    Chinese Simplified    Russian

Western Civilisation

Until the advent of materialism and 19th c. dogma, Western Civilisation was  superior to anything Islam had developed.  Islam has not aided in the development of the modern world; in fact civilisation has only been created in spite of Islam.  Proof of this resides in the 'modern' world and the unending political-economic and spiritual poverty of Muslim states and regions.  Squatting on richer civilisations is not 'progress'.  Islam is pagan, totalitarian, and irrational.   

Back     Printer Friendly Version  

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bookmark and Share

Book Review, 'The Civilization of the Middle Ages', by Norman Cantor, 1993.

Academic gibberish about Islamic superiority.

by Ferdinand III

Norman Cantor is a well-known professor of history at New York University and an expert in the medieval epoch. His works are always detailed, well-sourced, and usually acclimatized to the liberal-left wing academic world. Thus much of his information runs along the mainstream of political-historical thought – which makes some of what he discusses either wrong, out of date; or illogical. This book, which is at times accessible, is a forest of information jammed into a small landmass, which can be a useful guide, on some select topics.

It is impossible to review such a work which covers 1000 years of history and would require a book just to go through the various themes and ideas enunciated by Cantor and either support or refute them. One chapter in particular however, is interesting and captures the essence of what Cantor is trying to tell the reader – that the medieval era was an epoch drenched in poverty, misery, superstition and untrammelled misery, especially when compared to the airy world of light, sophistication, wealth and advancement displayed by the Arab-Muslim world. The Roman world – an oppressive Oriental state in reality, based on slavery, exploitation, high taxes, and which did not create anything worthwhile in the last 300 years of its existence – is held aloft as cultured, high-brow, resplendent and civilized. Almost the opposite of reality. The Roman empire collapsed into 3 Germanic empires under which, wealth, transport, living standards, innovation and agricultural production rose dramatically.

Cantor's academic view is largely bunk and has been proven such by archaeology, Arab and Christian chronicles and the base fact that Europe by 900 AD was the wealthiest place on the planet able to expel Arabs [by 1250 AD the Moors were relegated to a tiny corner of Spain and expelled from Italy and France by the 11th century]; the Avars, the Mongols, and the Vikings. A weak, impoverished, superstitious and stupid society never would have accomplished this along with the hundreds of inventions which formed the basis of the Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the modern world. It defies common-sense to make such a claim.

In any event Cantor has a chapter called, 'Justinian and Mohammed'. Cantor like most if not all academics, is very sympathetic to Islam and Arab imperialism. He calumnies Christian Europe for its devotion to shrines, relics and false Gods; but is strangely indifferent to the moon cult of Mecca and the Muslim prostration to the male Meccan moon deity ali-ilah. Perhaps that is because Cantor does not know that much about Islamic ritualization, paganism, blood-lust and its cult of death and submission. Or it is because like most academics Cantor hates Christianity, and Western civilization. This would be rather strange for a professor of history paid by the Western taxpayer, but much of life is illogical.

Cantor maintains that, “The Byzantine and Moslem impact on western Europe was less important than was the Germanic influence.” [p. 123] This statement does not make much sense. All three forces were vital in the creation of modern Europe, along with Christianity, Roman and Greek legacies and a host of other factors. Put it differently. Would Europe have developed in the same way if Islam for example had never existed ? Of course not. Europe never would have developed the idea of Holy War – an entirely Muslim concept; never would have spent men and treasure on defending itself against Islam; would not have seen 5 million of its people [just in the West] enslaved; would not have witnessed the massive destruction of Spain over 5 centuries which only ended around 1250 AD with a decisive Christian victory; and it would not have seen the Mediterranean trade and political-economy so distorted, ravaged and interrupted which must have had a deleterious impact on all facets of European life. These are facts that Cantor simply ignores.

Byzantine's influence was also profound. Justinian was the 6th century Byzantine Emperor who tried to reunite the Eastern and former Western Rome empire. He succeeded but only pyrrhically. Justinian was an icon, a man whose influence did shape history and rather decisively; “Justinian (527-565) had a greater influence on the development of Byzantium than any other emperor between Constantine and the tenth century.” [p. 124] Justinian's reign saw the creation of Christendom's most impressive church – the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. He also created 'the Justinian code', centralizing and codifying all Roman law into 3 volumes [p. 125]. This legal framework was far different than the Germanic legal system which was more flexible, case based and individualized. Justinian's code was a perfect legal system for an emperor, since it enshrined the King or primus-inter-pares as the embodiment of all law. It became the basis for the legal code of modern Europe [p. 126].

But Justinian also destroyed Byzantium paving the way for the successful irruption of Islam across the frontiers of the Eastern empire. Justinian persecuted 'heretics' especially the 'Monophysites' [believers in the one nature of Christ and not in the 3-natured or Trinity of Christ], in Syria and Egypt. This destructive malevolence helps explain why the Arabs conquered the Levant and Egypt so easily a century later [p. 127]. Simply put, the population was battered, over-taxed and sick of religious oppression.

Justinian's attempts to reconquer North Africa and Italy drained the empire of its men and resources [p. 127]. It took 30 years to defeat the Goths in Italy and this long campaign ruined Italy economically. There was widespread de-urbanization within Italy, with cities such as Rome, Naples and other major centres emptied of their populations [p. 128]. to pay for these colossal struggles the Eastern empire's subjects were assaulted by an array of enormous tax increases and sur-charges, which led to social unrest and even minor revolts [p. 129]. By the end of Justinian's reign the weakened Byzantine's found themselves under assault from the east by Persia and from the north by Germanic tribes. Justinian's successor Heraclius saved the Eastern empire from both invasions, but at a heavy price. [p. 129] By the early 7th century the Eastern empire was exhausted, de-populated, over-taxed and under-manned militarily.

So far so good in Cantor's account. All true. But then he turns to Islam – a topic that he has never seriously studied – and becomes quite lost. Some of the more obvious and incorrect themes that Cantor peddles in this chapter about Islam include:

The Arabs were superior fighting men:

“It took the Arabs who were far militarily far superior to the Germans, seven centuries to take Constantinople.” [p. 123]

The Arabs were defeated many times by 'Germans' including the Franks and northern Spanish kings from 720 to 737 AD. Militarily and man for man, the Arabs were inferior in face of the superiority of Western European arms and society. They won their early empire thanks to the devastation by over 100 years of intra-Christian warfare. Even the eastern Germans were clad in heavier armor; had more advanced technology including high backed saddles and better weapons; than the Arabs. The Muslims could not take Constantinople until gun powder and cannons were invented – both of them perfected by Europeans, not Muslims. 

Arabia was prosperous:

“We should also forgo the assumption that Arabia was an impoverished desert.” [p. 133]

Arabia was a backwater compared to its neighbours. It was poor and beggarly. One of the main impetuses for the Jihad was the attraction of urban centers, wealth, gold, a higher living standard and beautiful women, all to be found to the empires bordering the desert kingdoms.

Islam is a religion:

“Of all the great religions of mankind, Islam is most suited to serve as a universal religion.” [p. 133]

Islam is not a religion – there is no Golden Rule, no ethical code, no gratitude, tolerance or acceptance of others. It is a political theology of war, racism and supremacism. Cantor even admits this by stating, “Holy war is one of the pillars of Islam.” [p. 135] How can an ideology which adjures war be called a religion ?

The Koran is wonderful:

“The Koran emphasizes the value of family life, and while, for the Moslem who can afford it, four wives are allowed, the most rigorous precepts of sexual morality are enjoined upon all members...” [p. 135]

He has never read the Koran. Polygamy precludes 'family values'. Only an academic would say that having a harem and multiple wives is a 'family value'. What gibberish.

“The Islamic religion, then, is an optimistic one.” [p. 135]

Islam is an entirely negative theology. There is no free-will, no self-determination and no individualism allowed. You just submit to Mohammed and Allah and that is it. Women are ½ the worth of a man. Arab male Muslims rule the hierarchy in which females, Christians Jews, Blacks and slaves are treated as 'cattle and pigs'. It accepts and expands slavery. What is optimistic about any of this except Arab and Muslim males getting virgins, wine, and nubile young boys in 'heaven' [the Koran never mentions the goodies that Muslim females are to get in heaven......] ?

Dismisses Dhimmitude:

“It is obvious that the Christians were eager to accept the faith of their conquerors and to free themselves from the civil disabilities that were imposed upon those who remained outside the Islamic faith.” [p. 135]

Millions of Jews and Christians were killed or enslaved in the Arab-Muslim holy wars. Some would have converted to Islam to avoid the Dhimmi or second class status taxes found in the poll-tax [Jiyza]; the Kharaj [production tax which took 50-70% of your wealth]; or the Avariz [ad hoc taxes] which were used to fund local projects, harems, wars or other items of import for the Muslim ruler. Dhimmitude slaughtered and taxed into oppressive millions of people. Very few would have been 'eager' for such a programme.

Ignores the Arab destruction of the Mediterranean world:

“The Latin-Christian peoples deprived themselves of the benefits of Moslem civilization through their self-imposed political and cultural isolation.” [p. 140]


“But the actual cutting off of Europe from Mediterranean trade was only momentary, if it ever occurred.” [p. 143]

As with many academics Cantor keeps confusing himself.  On the one hand he says that the 'greatness' of Arab civilization was lost on Europe because the Europeans - being the stupid Christians that they were -- 'walled' themselves off.  On the other hand he says that the Arab wars against Christendom had no impact.  So what was it ?  If the Arab incursions into the Christian world were so benign, than natural patterns of trade, economics, and political-economy would have produced inter-empire dissemination of ideas, specie and culture.  But the base and cruel reality is that the Muslims waged a Jihadic war of extermination against Europe for 1200 years.  War by necessity precludes quaint ideas about harmony, earnest discussions and cross fertilization of cultural accroutrements - at least as envisioned by academics.  Europe was not 'isolated' but assaulted.

Cantor also dismisses Pirenne's thesis that the Arab annihilation of Jewish-Berber-Romano-Christian society around the Mediterranean had much of an effect on Europe. In fact he states that trade was still brisk between east and west and that commerce and society were perhaps slightly affected. This is bizarre. Jihadic war is by nature and impulse genocidal and terrifying. Millions of non-Muslims were killed and enslaved. Spain was raped. The littoral areas of southern Europe were targets of jihad, raids, and plunder. Papyrus, spices, and other oriental products and their trade dropped off precipitously. Only an academic could conclude that jihadic war, in which the intent is to eradicate the non-Muslim society in question, would have only had a marginal impact on European society.

The rest of his thoughts on Islam only get worse. But you get the idea. Cantor is 'mainstream' academia. He has two major themes: first, the Christian world was degenerate, confused, corrupt, and inferior to the Islamic and second, that the takeover by Islam of much of the Levant, Africa and Mediterranean world was a blessing. According to Cantor, Islam is a universal 'religion' of austerity demanding a purpose in life, and blessed with 'family values'. The absurdity of this world-view is hardly worth pointing out – except that it is rife within the academic-political-and media elite. 

The main value I found in Cantor's work is the recurring thought I had whilst reading it. We need fewer academics in the West and more people who can think and see reality for what it is. The evolution of the first universities of Bologna and Paris, to what we have today, has in many ways, not been a positive.




Article Comments:

Related Articles:

Medieval/Early Modern Christianity

9/24/2023:  Christian Byzantium and Greek Civilisation

5/3/2023:  Byzantium and 'The Franks'. A complex tragedy.

3/27/2023:  Byzantium and the end of glory

11/20/2022:  Christian Monks saving and building Civilisation

11/14/2022:  Saving Civilisation. The Catholic Church in the non-existent 'dark ages'

11/3/2022:  Cathophobia. A real and dangerous mental illness.

8/15/2022:  Matteo Rici and the Catholic Mission to China

4/13/2022:  Slandering Medieval Christianity while applauding Muslim Paganism.

10/27/2021:  The Fall of Rome and the Invasions of the Musulmans

8/30/2021:  Henry More and Richard the Lionheart. Two opposite ends of the Christian spectrum.

8/3/2021:  The Unenlightened Enlightenment: an age of Unreason

5/27/2021:  The myth of the 'Dark Ages'

4/11/2021:  The Age of the Ineffably Uncivilised. The Enlightenment as ‘EnDarkenment’.

3/9/2021:  ‘Reformation Myths’, #3 by Rodney Stark. More science in Medieval Universities than in the modern.

3/5/2021:  ‘Reformation Myths’, #2 by Rodney Stark

3/4/2021:  ‘Reformation Myths’, by Rodney Stark

11/14/2020:  Medieval Medicine and science. No, Moslems did not invent medicine. Christians did.

8/15/2020:  Belloc and the eternal threat of the Muhammandan death cult

6/1/2016:  Constantine, Clovis and Christianity

5/3/2016:  Middle Ages: Wonders in art, architecture, technology and yes science and math

5/3/2016:  From steel manufacturing to stained glass, the ages of the Middle Ages were full of energy.

4/20/2016:  Morris Bishop and Medieval Europe; remove Islam and society begins to flourish

3/8/2016:  'The Reformation' is more accurately called 'The Deformation'

2/13/2016:  The Incorrupted bodies of Saints - a long list of miracles that 'science' cannot explain

1/7/2016:  The modern cult of science versus reason and faith

1/3/2016:  Aquinas, Aristotle and Mad Muhammad

12/25/2015:  The birth of Christ is NOT based on the pagan festival of the Invincible Sun

12/3/2015:  Faith and science are handmaidens not opponents

10/31/2015:  In praise of the Monks, the creators of modern Europe

10/24/2015:  From Augustine to Anselm, logic and faith working together

10/17/2015:  Medieval Ontology, logic and Anselm

9/26/2015:  Medieval Faith married to reason created the modern world.

9/19/2015:  Machiavelli, another product of the insane, the illiterate, the savage

9/19/2015:  The Greatest Queen in European history - Queen Isabella.

8/30/2015:  Feudalism, pilloried and slandered without context

8/22/2015:  Frederick II, the Atheist monster of the 13th century

7/29/2015:  Parthia and the destruction of Byzantium

6/29/2015:  Pierre Duhem, the Galileo myth, and historical revisionism.

6/25/2015:  Pope Sylvester II, another Great Pope, unlike the current version.

6/23/2015:  Pope Gregory the Great and saving civilisation

6/22/2015:  Pope Gregory the Great - an inspiration to civilization.

5/22/2015:  Godefroid and Medieval astronomy. Quite modern indeed.

5/11/2015:  Saving Civilization - the 'Faith'.

5/6/2015:  Belloc and the civilizational influence of the Catholic Church

4/10/2015:  Another Moslem-Enlightenment lie; 'Christians never bathed'.....

4/6/2015:  Pierre Duham and the importance of Middle Age Science.

4/2/2015:  Modern science arose only in Christian Europe.

3/9/2015:  Philoponus, the Astrolabe and Galileo

2/6/2015:  Only in Christian Europe were schools and the university system created.

2/4/2015:  Christian genius in Mathematics. Moslems invented precious little, Christianity a treasure trove.

2/2/2015:  Christians discovered and confirmed Heliocentricity. No other culture came close to that.

1/31/2015:  The myth and nonsense of the 'Enlightenment'. Pure Atheist and Marxist propaganda.

1/24/2015:  Pointed Arches, Ribbed Vaults, Flying Buttresses and Christian Genius

11/23/2014:  Aristotle and the Church – a complex relationship.

11/21/2014:  From Epicurus to Galileo, atomism and materialism.

11/16/2014:  St. Thomas Aquinas, reason, faith and Aristotle.

8/26/2014:  Brunelleschi's amazing Dome of the early 15th century

8/24/2014:  Byzantium: A Christian and cultural Colossus

8/21/2014:  Byzantium and its legacy of legal processes

8/21/2014:  Byzantium: The forgotten influence on Western Civilization

8/19/2014:  Anglo Saxon art the lie of a 'dark age'

8/18/2014:  The Lindisfarne Gospels and civilized art

7/29/2014:  Anselm of Canterbury and the Scholastic method

7/21/2014:  Lies about Medieval Medicine

7/15/2014:  Post modern ignorance of the Medieval World 900-1300

7/9/2014:  Only a complex and wealthy society can build a Trebuchet

7/8/2014:  Medieval bathing - a legacy from Rome - and quite common

7/7/2014:  Medieval literature puts a lie to myth of a dark age

6/29/2014:  Flat earthers are more likely to be Evolutionists and Cult of Warm devotees than Christian...

6/27/2014:  Atheists are so desperate, that quacks such as Bruno are now 'scientists'

6/26/2014:  The myth of Bruno, the 'scientist' fighting against superstition and darkness.....

6/12/2014:  Medieval Christianity and the genesis of plurality and debate

6/9/2014:  Melisende and the importance of Queen's and women in Medieval history

6/5/2014:  A supposed Dark Age gave us the Magna Carta and the Provisions of Oxford

6/3/2014:  Medieval Chess reflects much about Medieval society

6/2/2014:  Skis and skates - another Medieval Christian creation

5/31/2014:  Could you create an illuminated manuscript ?

5/30/2014:  Overview of Medieval Manuscripts - where are the Moslem manuscripts and works of art ?

5/30/2014:  The labour and brilliance of Medieval Manuscripts

5/28/2014:  Book printing and binding - another Medieval innovation of the first order

5/23/2014:  Moerbeeke, translations and the medieval genius to adapt and learn

5/21/2014:  Guns, canons, explosives - another Medieval Christian invention

5/14/2014:  The most important Medieval invention – modern capitalism

5/13/2014:  51 out of the 52 most important 16th and 17th century scientists were Christian

5/13/2014:  A list of scientists in the 16th and 17th centuries

5/11/2014:  The bicycle, the engineering and science of the Middle Ages developed this mode of transport

5/9/2014:  Carracks, another Medieval European-only invention

5/3/2014:  Accounting, another Medieval Invention, generated by Capitalism

5/3/2014:  Buttons and Medieval Capitalism

5/1/2014:  Blast Furnaces were developed independently in Medieval Europe

4/26/2014:  Chiara Frugoni and Medieval Inventions

4/25/2014:  Partial list of Medieval inventions

4/21/2014:  Medieval inventions around modern grooming and shaving

4/21/2014:  Medieval invention: Artesian wells and understanding water hydrology

4/19/2014:  Technological genius; the Medieval invention of the Wind Mill

4/16/2014:  Eye-Glasses, another Medieval invention based on math and science

4/16/2014:  The chimney - another important Medieval European invention

4/14/2014:  Horses and Iron industrialization

4/12/2014:  The mighty Wheelbarrow - another Medieval invention

4/12/2014:  The modern clock - another Medieval Invention

4/8/2014:  The High Middles and the beginnings of modern science

4/7/2014:  The Middle Ages and Public Schools, funded by the Church

4/4/2014:  A very brief summary of Medieval Christian genius 1100 – 1300

3/29/2014:  The real flat earthers - modern Atheists and Secularists

3/27/2014:  The Galileo myth and the Humanist invention of conflict

3/19/2014:  Why does the earth rotate ? Science has made precious little progress since 1350

3/19/2014:  A brief list of some Medieval inventions

3/12/2014:  Christian scientists and thinkers in the Middle Ages

3/10/2014:  God's Philosophers by James Hannam - the true record of Medieval Science

3/6/2014:  St. Thomas Aquinas on the Meccan Moon Cult

2/25/2014:  The Inquisition and its myths

2/14/2014:  The magnificence of the Middle Ages - nothing like it in Islamic history

2/3/2014:  Without Christianity there is no modern world

10/20/2012:  Medieval innovations in transport and war - some examples.

9/23/2010:  Anti-Semiticism is a Muslim import.

7/10/2010:  Medieval Civilization: Venetian rise and decline.

6/10/2010:  Imperial Spain – lessons in despotism, poverty and ignorance.

4/26/2010:  Slandering Christian Europe: 'The Dark Ages'

3/23/2010:  Creating the modern world. The blessings of medieval Europe.