Helen Castor tells afresh the gripping story of the peasant girl from Domremy who hears voices from God, leads the French army to victory, is burned at the stake for heresy, and eventually becomes a saint. But unlike the traditional narrative, a story already shaped by the knowledge of what Joan would become and told in hindsight, Castor’s Joan of Arc: A History takes us back to fifteenth century France and tells the story forwards. Instead of an icon, she gives us a living, breathing woman confronting the challenges of faith and doubt, a roaring girl who, in fighting the English, was also taking sides in a bloody civil war. We meet this extraordinary girl amid the tumultuous events of her extraordinary world where no one—not Joan herself, nor the people around her—princes, bishops, soldiers, or peasants—knew what would happen next.
Adding complexity, depth, and fresh insight into Joan’s life, and placing her actions in the context of the larger political and religious conflicts of fifteenth century France, Joan of Arc: A History is history at its finest and a surprising new portrait of this remarkable woman.
Joan of Arc: A History features an 8-page color insert.
Helen Castor is a historian of medieval England and a Bye-Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. Her first book, Blood and Roses, was long-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize and won the English Association’s Beatrice White Prize. Her second book, She-Wolves, was selected as one of the books of the year by The Guardian, The Sunday Times, The Independent, Financial Times, and BBC History Magazine. She lives in London.
Told through the eyes of a soldier, and interspersed with humorous anecdotes, Appel is a fascinating story that debunks myths about the French Foreign Legion and shows it more accurately as a professional arm of the French military. Struthers provides insight into the rigorous discipline that the Legion instills in its young recruits, – who trade their identities as individuals for a life of adventure and a role in a unified fighting force whose motto is “Honour and Loyalty.”
Foreword by Col. Benoit Desmeulles, former commanding officer of the Legions 2e Régiment Étranger Parachutistes.
“Today more than ever, Muslims and non-Muslims alike need to be reminded of the courage, compassion and intellect of Emir Abd el-Kader… Abd el-Kader’s jihad provides Muslims with a much- needed antidote to the toxic false jihads of today, dominated by anger, violence and politics.” -- His Royal Highness, Prince Hassan bin Talal (Prince of Jordan)
"Abd el-Kader teaches the French and the world that to achieve success, moral authority is necessary, not simply military might...This fascinating revival of a 19th century world hero’s story holds valuable lessons for today’s Middle East Warrior. It would be a worthwhile addition to any reading list.”—Col. Jon Smythe, USMC ( ret.)
“Abd el-Kader lived by a chivalric code steeped in the Arab concept of honor. When, in our own day al-Qaeda terrorists claim the title of 'knight,' it’s worth recalling a time when Arab warriors embodied the noblest attributes of knighthood: courage compassion and restraint.”—Steve Simon, research fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
“John Kiser has not just given us an absorbing and beautifully written story of a great hero, he has written an important book. The reader is bound to be moved by the life of this remarkable man who was the very opposite of a fanatical jihadist.”—Jane Geniesse, former New York Times reporter and author of Passionate Nomad: The Life of Freya Stark
“Kiser weaves the intricate tale of Abd el-Kader’s heroic life and spirit as deftly as the emir maneuvered his armies on the battlefield . . . the perfect elixir for the contemporary West’s chronic difficulties understanding the East.”—Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, author of What’s Right with Islam
When Abd el-Kader died in 1883, The New York Times hailed him as “one of the few great men of the century.” The warrior/saint had won the heart of the French nation, his sworn enemy and the invader of his Algerian homeland. He reached the summit of his fame after he saved the lives of thousands of Christians during a Turkish rampage in Damascus. Elkader, Iowa, is named after the emir.
John W. Kiser is the author of The Monks of Tibhirine (St. Martin’s Press, 2003), which won the French Siloe Prize. His articles have appeared in Foreign Policy Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
New York Times Review:
Reviving a Novel-Worthy Tale of War and ReligionPETER STEINFELS
Published: November 21, 2008
For more than 40 years he was a world figure, his renown stretching from the American Midwest to Moscow to the Middle East. As he neared death in 1883, The New York Times wrote that he “deserves to be ranked among the foremost of the few great men of the century.”
Earlier, he had received accolades and awards from France, Britain, Russia, the Ottoman sultan, the papacy and President Abraham Lincoln, who sent him not a medal but, in quintessentially American fashion, a matched pair of fancy Colt pistols.
The man being honored was Abd el-Kader, a learned and fervent Muslim, who for 15 years had organized and led a jihad against a Western power.
After he ceased hostilities, his four-year detention, in violation of a promise of safe passage into exile, became an international cause célèbre. Released and feted, even by his captors, he came to live in Damascus.
There, in July 1860, el-Kader braved mobs and saved thousands of Christians from a murderous rampage through the city’s Christian quarter.
In this, the bicentennial of his birth, el-Kader’s name is known to only a tiny fraction of Americans. That fraction includes those knowledgeable about modern Algeria, where his resistance to French colonization places him among the founding figures of an independent nation.
And then there are the 1,500 residents of Elkader, a town in northeastern Iowa, founded and named in 1846 by a frontier lawyer who admired the freedom-fighting exploits of this “daring Arab chieftain.”
Anyone interested in learning more should turn to “Commander of the Faithful” (Monkfish Book Publishing Company), a new book by John W. Kiser.
Mr. Kiser had previously written “The Monks of Tibhirine” (St. Martin’s Press), about Trappist monks in Algeria whose quiet lives of prayer had bonded them with their Muslim neighbors but who were nonetheless taken hostage by Islamic extremists in 1996 and killed.
Mr. Kiser learned about el-Kader (the name is sometimes transliterated from the Arabic in different ways, like al-Qadir or al-Kadir) because the Tibhirine monastery stood on the slope of a mountain where el-Kader had led one of his battles and where a steep cliff face was named after him.
A book about a leader of jihad may seem like a strange sequel to a book about peaceful monks, but the more Mr. Kiser learned about el-Kader, the more he felt a spiritual kinship between the devout, ascetic Trappists and the pious, ascetic guerrilla leader. Both had found in their own religious codes and daily rituals the basis for a fraternity that defied religious boundaries.
As the son of a celebrated holy man, tribal leader and head of a Sufi brotherhood, el-Kader was taught to read and memorize the Koran, tutored in all the details of the tradition but also in philosophy, history and other fields.
At home and away, the young boy was also trained in horseback riding, public speaking and fighting skills. All would prove crucial. In 1832, with France increasingly encroaching on Algerian territory that was only nominally under Ottoman rule, the 25-year-old el-Kader emerged as the commander, the emir, of Muslim Arab resistance.
Because el-Kader was just over five feet tall, Alexis de Tocqueville, the French political thinker, who took a great interest in Algerian affairs, called him a “puny Arab”; but Tocqueville also called him “a Muslim Cromwell.” Like Oliver Cromwell, he wielded strict religious beliefs to form a disciplined fighting force.
Mr. Kiser insists on the religious dimension of what might otherwise be read as a story of military and political maneuvering. But “Commander of th
In the tradition of Antonia Fraser, David Starkey, and Alison Weir, prize-winning historian Helen Castor delivers a compelling, eye-opening examination of women and power in England, witnessed through the lives of six women who exercised power against all odds—and one who never got the chance. Exploring the narratives of the Empress Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Isabella of France, Margaret of Anjou, and other “she-wolves,” as well as that of the Nine Days' Queen, Lady Jane Grey, Castor invokes a magisterial discussion of how much—and how little—has changed through the centuries.
In the popular imagination, as in her portraits, Elizabeth I is the image of monarchical power. But this image is as much armour as a reflection of the truth. In this illuminating account of England's iconic queen, Helen Castor reveals her reign as shaped by a profound and enduring insecurity that was a matter of both practical politics and personal psychology.
Politically astute, ambitious, and beautiful, Yolande of Aragon, queen of Sicily, was one of the most powerful women of the Middle Ages. Caught in the complex dynastic battle of the Hundred Years War, Yolande championed the dauphin's cause against the forces of England and Burgundy, drawing on her savvy, her statecraft, and her intimate network of spies. But the enemy seemed invincible. Just as French hopes dimmed, an astonishingly courageous young woman named Joan of Arc arrived from the farthest recesses of the kingdom, claiming she carried a divine message-a message that would change the course of history and ultimately lead to the coronation of Charles VII and the triumph of France.
Now, on the six hundredth anniversary of the birth of Joan of Arc, this fascinating book explores the relationship between these two remarkable women, and deepens our understanding of this dramatic period in history. How did an illiterate peasant girl gain access to the future king of France, earn his trust, and ultimately lead his forces into battle? Was it only the hand of God that moved Joan of Arc-or was it also Yolande of Aragon?