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The War On Heresy: Faith and Power in Medieval Europe [Paperback]

Professor R. I. Moore
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 July 2014

The war on heresy obsessed medieval Europe in the centuries after the first millennium. R. I. Moore's vivid narrative focuses on the motives and anxieties of those who declared and conducted the war: what were the beliefs and practices they saw as heretical? How might such beliefs have arisen? And why were they such a threat?

In western Europe at AD 1000 heresy had barely been heard of. Yet within a few generations accusations had become commonplace and institutions were being set up to identify and suppress beliefs and practices seen as departures from true religion. Popular accounts of events, most notably of the Albigensian Crusade led by Europe against itself, have assumed the threats posed by the heretical movements were only too real. Some scholars by contrast have tried to show that reports of heresy were exaggerated or even fabricated: but if they are correct why was the war on heresy launched at all? And why was it conducted with such pitiless ferocity?

To find the answers to these and other questions R. I. Moore returns to the evidence of the time. His investigation forms the basis for an account as profound as it is startlingly original.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Profile Books (10 July 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1846682002
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846682001
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 127,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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This is a jaw-dropping book. Thrilling, unsettling, revelatory. (Tom Holland)

Moore makes a very powerful case ... if only half of his revolutionary new claims are accepted, every encyclopedia entry on the Cathars will have to be completely rewritten (Daily Telegraph)

Brilliantly told, profoundly thought-provoking. (History Today)

Moore's latest book is as good, and as provocative, as anything he has produced. The book is one of the finest accounts of medieval heresy that you are likely to encounter ... serves to enhance Moore's status as one of the finest historians of medieval heresy. (BBC History Magazine)

Elegant and intelligent. (Literary Review)

Wide-ranging, beautifully written, and compellingly argued, this is a book that overturns the traditional picture. (Times Literary Supplement)

Moore's approach to Catharism is intriguing and provocative. [This is] an accessible and up-to-date history of the rise of heresy persecution in the medieval West. The book will inspire ample criticism and defenses among scholars. Amateur historians will find a pleasing expository style burnished with colorful details. (America)

A bold new vision. (The Historian)

An intellectual thriller ... An absolute page-turner ... Startling, unsettling and revelatory, The War on Heresy is Homeland in cowls. (Tom Holland Toronto Globe and Mail)

The The War on Heresy is an important and well-argued book that will force scholars to re-examine the history of medieval heresy and provides the methodological blueprint for the study of heresy in the Middle Ages. (The Medieval Review)

A very impressive study, made all the more accessible by the author's admirably lucid writing style (Church History)

The book under review here is a brilliant and sobering meditation on this theme ... The War on Heresy is a triumph. (Standpoint)

Beautifully written, measured, searching, and sublimely free from jargon. We are presented with eye-witness accounts that are not knocked into pre-conceived patterns. The effect is to draw the reader into not just the story but into how the story became a story in the first place. Inevitably this affords a double-take perspective, in which history and stories excitingly grow together and the reader becomes a participant. (René Weis Professor of English, University College London, and author of The Yellow Cross: The Story of the Last Cathars, 1290-1329)

The War on Heresy is social and religious history at its best, the fruit of many decades of intense engagement with one of the most complex and difficult problems of medieval history. With admirable clarity, R. I. Moore tells the deeply troubling story of how heretics became a persecuted minority, not so much because of their beliefs, but because of the anxieties, needs, and ambitions of their persecutors. This is a masterfully researched and deeply thought book that tells its exciting and still relevant story with verve and with sympathy for the victims of the war on heresy. (Anders Winroth Professor of History, Yale University, and author of The Conversion of Scandinavia: Vikings, Merchants, and Missionaries in the Remaking of Northern Europe)

Fierce competition for power produces fierce discursive competition. In this grand and sane book, armed with many lights (intelligence, narrative skill, learning) R. I. Moore re-enters the territory of Europe's ferocious medieval competition for theological orthodoxy; wherever he ventures, he illumines what had been dark. (James Simpson Professor of English, Harvard University, and author of Idolatry and Iconoclasm)

Book Description

A passionate history of the war on heresy which dominated medieval Europe, now available in paperback.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding modern Europe 3 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
On the face of it, this excellently researched volume on Heresy in Medieval Europe appears to be the sort of dry, scholarly book associated with history geeks. Obviously the reader will be someone who has an interest in history or, someone researching religious movements and the Albigensian Crusade in Europe. Hidden within however, is a revealing and interesting, story of how modern European states came into being while highlighting the anxieties, self-doubt and neuroses of medieval European society. Well worth a perusal by the general reader wishing to increase their knowledge of the European psyche.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if a little heavy going at times 25 Jan 2014
By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have rather mixed feelings about this book. As a general reader I found it quite heavy going, and indeed it took me rather a long time to complete it, although i did learn much about the preoccupations of medieval europe, and the way in which accusations of heresy were used for political purposes as well by those who were sincerely motivated by a desire to resist, as they saw it, the work of the devil.

Taking each campaign of action against heresy in turn, the author shows how there was little in the way of an organised Cathar grouping, but that there was quite widespread support for a range of beliefs that were consdidered heretical by the Catholic church - refusing to eat meat, or to engage in proctreative activity were rather dangerous positions for people to take.

Overall this series of analyses can be a little pedanatic, as the author concedes in the afterward, but for those with strong knowledge of the period there is likely to much of interest and to stimulate further debate
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4.0 out of 5 stars The War on Heresy 24 July 2013
By Keen Reader TOP 100 REVIEWER
After reading around the growth of Christianity and the repression of various `pagan' beliefs, I found it interesting to consider the appearance of heresy; whereas various pagan belief systems had for centuries existed side by side, with the growth of Christianity it became more prevalent for those who were not Christians according to a prescribed and approved understanding of the same to be considered `outside' religion, or heretics. Pagans still existed, but if you were not pagan, and were not considered a `correct' Christian, clearly you had to fall somewhere else - you became a heretic.

By the eleventh century, from when the action in this book really kicks off, Western Europe was predominantly Roman Catholic, and the Pope and Church had representatives in every kingdom. During the eleventh century, proceedings against `heretics' picked up in a big way; yet, as the author points out, many of these proceedings were politically motivated against the ruler or powers that protected the victims that were accused of heresy. So heresy became a way to embarrass or undermine those in authority. There were also, of course, purely religious accusations - and those most well known during the medieval period were against the Cathars and the Waldensians.

This is a most interesting book, which gives the reader much to ponder. It is not particularly easy to read; not that it is a dense, scholarly book, rather that much of the work covers new ways of looking at concepts and new interpretations that you need to consider closely as you progress through the book. Thus, it is probably most beneficial to approach if you already have a working knowledge of Medieval Europe and some of the major features and players of the time.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars War on Heresy 3 Sep 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a new departure on this subject. Previously many historians have concentrated on understanding the belief systems
of the heretics. Where the sources survive this is still quite difficult to write as heretics suffer from a bad press composed mainly not by sympathetic writers but by their enemies. This is where this work starts as it explores the hostile context (where the sources survive)around each case written by opponents of the heresy. According to this historian this is a new departure for most medieval heresies. I always have before me the case of Jeanne d'Arc who was burnt for 'heresy' for military /political reasons by the English. This is fundamental in studying this subject as the scrutiny of source material deciding where bias lies is absolutely basic in historical writing. I remember the very first essay I was set as an undergraduate student at Portsmouth Poly was to decide how valid Machiavelli's view of Ferdinand of Aragon and Cesare Borgia was in The Prince. How previous historians have missed the hostile contexts of heretical groups remains to be explained. Lambert's work is still the very best on the Cathars as is Wakefield
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
4.0 out of 5 stars All Christians Should Read This One 22 Dec 2012
By Linda McMillan - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a great book about power, politics, and the misappropriation of religion in medieval Europe. You can forget all that stuff you learned about the heresies in college, this book gives a much more robust picture of the socio-political milieu in which the big heresy hunts were conducted. It's short, very readable, and ties things together nicely. I'm giving it a big recommendation.
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