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A Most Holy War


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Table of Contents

Preface Acknowledgments Dramatis Personae Genealogical Charts A Most Holy War Abbreviations Used in Notes Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Mark Pegg is Associate Professor of History at Washington University in St. Louis. He is the author of The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245-1246.


Pegg (history, Washington Univ., Saint Louis; The Corruption of Angels: The Great Inquisition of 1245-1246) draws on thousands of testimonies collected by inquisitors between 1235 and 1245 in this account of the 13th-century Albigensian Crusade, commonly confused, he notes, with the crusade against the mythical Cathars. Although Pegg follows the canons of critical research, history is more of an art than a science for him here: instead of giving a doctrinal definition of Albigensian heresy, he describes the life of good men and women of southern France who followed a folk religion independent of the Roman Catholic Church. With Pope Innocent III calling in 1208 on Christians to exterminate these followers, Pegg's account is littered with murder, mayhem, and massacre, all in the name of the Holy Catholic Church. Pegg concludes that the crusade introduced genocide to history "by linking divine salvation to mass murder." But to get to this conclusion, the reader must first plough through thick, heavy prose laden with proper nouns. This book is less attractive to the general reader than, e.g., Christopher Tyerman's God's War: A New History of the Crusades, which includes a section on the Albigensians. Recommended for large university and research libraries.-James A. Overbeck, Atlanta-Fulton P.L. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

"[L]ively and fast-paced inaugural book in Oxford's 'Pivotal Moments in World History' series....Drawing on numerous primary documents, Pegg's compelling history offers fresh glimpses, accounts of prophecies, answered prayers, and above all, forgiveness."--Publishers Weekly (starred review) "Pegg's work is terrific...exceptional in its subtlety and accessibility."--Times Literary Supplement "Mark Gregory Pegg's A Most Holy War: The Albigensian Crusade and the Battle for Christendom is a pathbreaking, iconoclastic account of the crusade that was mounted in 1209 to eliminate heresy from the French region of Provence....[I]t breaks new ground rather than synopsizing what is already known."--Austin American Statesman "Pegg's is a wonderfully articulate, exciting, and very risky book. He boldly redraws the late twelfth-century political and devotional map of Provence and the Toulousain, identified as hotbeds of heresy in Cistercian rhetoric, and he meticulously plots the actions of the Cistercian-inspired Pope Innocent III and the armies he threw for two decades against the 'good men,' 'good women,' and quarreling nobles of the region. Pegg knows the landscape well, and his accounts of military enterprise are meticulous and vivid, his characters distinctive, and his final reflections on genocide offer ominous implications not only for the religious uses of coercion in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Europe, but for later times as well."--Ed Peters, University of Pennsylvania "Mark Pegg's A Most Holy War is a bold, erudite, engaging, and superbly written study of what has long been one of the most central topics in medieval and Mediterranean history. By providing a vivid and detailed portrait of the Albigensian crusade and of the great trail of blood the crusaders left in their wake, Pegg offers to his readers a brilliant and lasting contribution to our understanding of one of the harshest and most critical moments in the history of the West."--Teofilo F. Ruiz, Professor of History, UCLA "I can think of no topic in medieval history that makes such demands on the skills of the historian as the terrible and momentous tragedy of the Albigensian crusade. Mark Pegg's extraordinary achievement lies not so much in his rare command of the materials and the problems that surround them as the grace with which he embraces them in a flowing, deeply moving and beautifully written narrative. This is the first modern account that is worthy of the subject."--Robert Moore, Professor Emeritus, Medieval History, University of Newcastle upon Tyne and author of The Formation of a Persecuting Society

When a papal legate was murdered in southern France in 1208, Pope Innocent III's reaction was swift and harsh. Convinced that the villages between Montpelier and Bordeaux were hideouts for heretics and accusing the count of Toulouse of protecting them, the pope issued his now famous plea for all knights and barons to be "signed with the cross" and to drive out all heretics in a great crusade. The Albigensian Crusade was the only one of the medieval crusades to pit Christian against Christian. In this lively and fast-paced inaugural book in Oxford's "Pivotal Moments in World History" series, Pegg grippingly retells the story of a crusade built on legend, not truth. The pope preached to his armies that whoever slaughtered these alleged heretics would not only cleanse his own soul but the soul of Christendom as well. This crusade, as Pegg remarkably demonstrates, introduced genocide into the world and paved the way for Christians to engage in the inquisitions against Jews and the crusades against Muslims that marked the remainder of the Middle Ages. Drawing on numerous primary documents, Pegg's compelling history offers fresh glimpses into the nature of religious violence as well as the easy ways that religions often fall into intolerance. (Feb.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

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