William R. Polk

Crusade and Jihad

The Thousand-Year War Between the Muslim World and the Global North

Yale University Press 2018

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Crusade and Jihad: The Thousand-Year War Between the Muslim World and the Global North (Yale University Press, 2018) is an ambitious attempt to cover,...

Crusade and Jihad: The Thousand-Year War Between the Muslim World and the Global North (Yale University Press, 2018) is an ambitious attempt to cover, in one volume, the entire history of the relationship between the ‘Global North’—China, Russia, Europe, Britain, and America—and the Muslim world from Southeast Asia to West Africa. With more than a half a century of experience as a historian, policy maker, diplomat, peace negotiator, and businessman, William R. Polk endeavors to explain the deep hostilities between the Muslim world and the Global North and show how they grew over the centuries.

Polk demonstrates how Islam, from its origins in the Arabian Peninsula, spread across North Africa into Europe, Central Asia, the Indian sub-continent, and Southeast Asia. But following the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Islamic civilization entered a decline while Europe began its overseas expansion. Defeated at every turn, Muslims tried adopting Western dress, organizing Westerns-style armies, and embracing Western ideas.

None of these efforts stopped the expansion of the West deep into the Muslim world in the late nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. The post-colonial Muslim world fell victim to what Polk calls a “post-imperial malaise,” typified by native tyrannies, corruption, and massive poverty. Eventually, this malaise gave rise to a furious blowback best typified by Al Qaeda and the Islamic State.

William R. Polk taught at Harvard University and the University of Chicago, served on the Policy Planning Staff in the Kennedy Administration, negotiated the Egyptian-Israeli Suez ceasefire in the 1960s, and founded the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs. He has written nineteen books.


Charles Coutinho holds a doctorate in history from New York University. Where he studied with Tony Judt, Stewart Stehlin and McGeorge Bundy. His Ph.D. dissertation was on Anglo-American relations in the run-up to the Suez Crisis of 1956. His area of specialization is 19th- and 20th-century European, American diplomatic and political history. It you have a recent title to suggest for a podcast, please send an e-mail to [email protected].

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