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Sacred Causes: Religion And Politics From The European Dictators To Al Qaeda Hardcover – 2 Oct 2006

3.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress; First Edition First Printing edition (2 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007195745
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007195749
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 657,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


‘This is an even better book than the author's erudite, dense sprawling triumph of last year, “Earthly Powers”…[“Sacred Causes”] benefits from a continual drip feed of very dry and very black humour…There is still Burleigh's great gift, the mark of the very best historians, to wring meaning and significance from those most arcane footnotes in history, stuff which others might designate mere ephemera…History is rarely rendered in such thrilling breadth, with such wit or with such terrible topicality.’ Rod Liddle, Spectator

‘Michael Burleigh forged a formidable reputation as a historian of Germany and consolidated it with “Earthly Powers”…“Sacred Causes” takes the story up to the present day. Its first half addresses in masterly fashion the relationship between the churches and the totalitarians…impressive…formidable…his book deserves the widest possible readership.’ Sunday Times

‘It is this that makes “Sacred Causes” so valuable: the tiny details that might be written off as mere human interest but that over and again reveal a subhuman sump of murderous impiety.’ New Statesman

‘Michael Burleigh is a man of formidable erudition and remarkable percipience…Burleigh last year published “Earthly Powers”…“Sacred Causes” brings the story up to the present date…Burleigh has, if anything, surpassed his earlier achievement…Burleigh's book is epic in its range…refreshingly unjudgemental…compelling…outstanding…this brilliant book proves that history has no end.’ Literary Review

‘This work should be read by everyone…Burleigh is one of our brightest historical stars – his massive erudition and passionate moral sense tempered with merciless wit. Beautifully written, fearlessly outspoken, full of superb portraits of heroes and monsters, “Sacred Causes” is an exuberant tour-de force.’ Evening Standard

‘Compelling…hugely ambitious…Burleigh is a writer who pulls no punches and seldom leaves a difficult question unasked.’ Sunday Telegraph

‘This is an even better book than…“Earthly Powers”…terrific and very funny…history is rarely rendered in such thrilling breadth, with such wit or with such terrible topicality.’ The Spectator

‘Splendid…magnificent…few historians would be able to cover such enormous tracts of ground so convincingly, but Burleigh also leavens his narrative with hefty chunks of opinion, wit and sheer mischief that make it a pleasure to read…a terrifically entertaining book.’ Daily Telegraph

‘In years to come, Michael Burleigh's two-volume study of secular hubris since the French Revolution may well be judged to be the most significant work of history published this decade…Burleigh is a fine and contentious writer and a hugely accomplished historian’ The Observer

‘“Sacred Causes” is a challenging history book with the power to scandalise its readers…Michael Burleigh is a trenchant, conservative historian who does not waste or mince words. His sharp judgements…bring alive his extensive research…for those who think that the Christian religion provides only footnotes to the history of the 20th century…this book is an important corrective.’ Financial Times

‘A brilliant account of the sinister fusion of religion and politics…frank and never afraid to ruffle any feathers…a powerful indictment of our uneasy times.’ J.G.Ballard

About the Author

Michael Burleigh is Distinguished Research Professor in Modern History at Cardiff University. He is the author of seven well-received books, including ‘Earthly Powers’ and ‘The Third Reich’, for which he was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize in 2001.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
There are three things that you should consider before buying this book. Firstly, are you a general reader or do you have a genuine interest in religion and politics? Secondly, do you prefer "neutral" commentary, or to read through the lens of the author? Finally, do you have a better than average background knowledge of C20th politics? The answer to these questions will largely determine whether you buy this book in the first place, as well as whether or not you manage to finish it.

Concerning the first question, the book interweaves politics and religion to the point where only a genuine interest in both would be enough to sustain the reader's interest. The subject matter is "heavy" anyway, and this coupled with the book's length mean that only the most interested need apply. Concerning the second question, this is most certainly not neutral, with Burleigh's views abundantly clear throughout, no more so than in his chapter on Northern Ireland, with his views expressed with somewhat unnerving ferocity. Having said that, his frankness throughout is a refreshing change to many history books, with their historians desperately trying to walk a neutral tight-rope so as to be all things to all readers, but not Burleigh. As a result, the heavy subject matter is much more digestible, punctuated with his frank statements that can at time genuinely amuse.

Concerning the third question, Burleigh's vocabulary is aimed at a highly educated audience, and he writes in such a way that assumes the reader has a very good background knowledge of the C20th and its political history.
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Format: Paperback
I would have to concur with other reviewers here that this is an excellent book that does a fine job of bringing the reader through the tumultuous events of WWII and so on, including a fair and balanced and long overdue defence of Pope Pius XII, but falters on the subject of Northern Ireland. The author has hitherto been nuanced and balanced, and then suddenly can't contain his disgust and displays prejudices of his own, after hundreds of pages highlighting the prejudices of others. His disdain for all things Irish extends to Nobel Prize winning poets who are dismissed as "minor" poets and Irish television hosts and pubs and makes one wonder if the author has constantly been spelling certain Irish names wrong throughout his book by mistake or because anything Irish doesn't deserve his respect or attention. As excellent as the preceding chapters are, the Ireland chapter brings his entire thesis into question, not because he may or may not be right, but because it's so over-the-top and so extremely bitter. I actually agree with most of his points, but this is a historian who seems unable to restrain himself on one chapter and so harms his entire project. An extremely interesting book then leaves an uneasy taste. As one other reviewer has pointed out, the fault perhaps lies with the editor. As another example, when discussing the prisoners convicted of the Birmingham and Guildford pub bombings, is it not worth mentioning to the reader that these men and women were later found innocent, or does this historian assume we are fully aware of all facts involved? If that is the case, what else has he misrepresented throughout the previous chapters?Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Burleigh has probed the nooks and crannies of the history of faith (and non-faith) in order to provide us with a vast and rich array of cautionary facts and anecdotes. We find enough stray characters in his account (mostly with severely damaged psyches) to supply a dozen novelists for several decades. His narrative of the uses and abuses of spirituality constitutes a timely warning that we in the West are getting quite a lot of things wrong. Remarkable for its scale and vision and also for still being a good read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Too often public figures claim unassailable authority for their barmy notions. This is a review of a representative bunch including Hitler and Karl Marx, plausible loonies all. The book bids us listen with detachment and rigorous attention to contemporary movers and shakers before bestowing our devotion. We are English and we can throw them down the front steps. In Europe they have prospered on sophistry and devious manipulation to gain respectability and support among decent folk unused to such radical action. Let us take care of our freedoms and let us not suffer salesmen gladly.
Brian Pickering
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Format: Paperback
In this sweeping and comprehensive work, Michael Burleigh examines the role played by religion in politics and politics in religion from the end of the First World War until the Islamic terrorist onslaught taking place today against the free world.
It is written from a strongly Catholic perspective, and Burleigh puts forward a robust defense of the Roman Catholic church against charges that it did nothing to try to prevent the Holocaust.
One of Burleigh's most important contributions in this book is his outline of the sterling role played by the Christian Democratic Parties in Western Europe, in both helping their countries to overcome the evil legacy of Nazism, and preventing the spread to their countries of the equally evil Communist tyranny.
As a traditional Jew, I can say that my communitarian pro-traditionalist and pro-national self-determination outlook (and my belief in a socially responsible market economy as opposed to laissez faire libertarianism), is very similar to an equivalent of the Christian Democrat philosophy, and I believe to prevent a victory by the dark forces of Satanic Islamo-Nazism, a variant of this philosophy needs to be re-established.

Beginning with the rise of Nazism and Fascism in Germany and Italy,the author explains how the knee jerk reaction of the Left to label everyone to the right of them as a "Fascist" blinded them to the genuine phenomenon, and how Leftist parties refused to co-operate with the moderate and Christian forces to stop Nazism and Fascism, thus bearing some responsibility for the the rise of these regimes.
Already by the 1920s predictions abounded of apocalypse and the end of days.
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