Eager reader of history, mystery, classics, biographies, steampunk, lit fic, science, scifi, and etc. My reviews are mostly positive--I rarely finish or write about books I don't enjoy. My TBR is too high for that.
Like several Karen Armstrong books I’ve read, Fields of Blood is so rich with information and ideas that it has years worth of material to reflect on and discuss. Even reading slowly and carefully it felt like I was just skimming its surface, but that was still enough to make me question some of my thinking patterns. For years Armstrong has heard people from all walks of life confidently making the broad mostly unexamined pronouncement that religion has been the cause of all major wars in history--I have been guilty of similar shortcut thinking myself--so she wrote Fields of Blood to address that claim with a fascinating, wide-reaching, and detailed world history of culture, politics, violence, and religion from the prehistoric pre-agrarian era to the post-9/11 present day.
The central themes of the entire 400+ page book are well summarized in its nine page Afterword, but the particulars of history in the earlier sections are what makes this book so interesting. One of the main ideas Armstrong makes a case for, as best as I can do justice to it, is that religion isn’t the cause of violence, the same religious texts can inspire very different actions, and it’s societal stratification and expansion brought about by the development of agriculture and then industrialization that began the cycle of subjugation and violence as we understand it today. Among the book’s many other interesting points to ponder, whether or not you end up agreeing with Armstrong, are that most people don’t make the claim that WWI or WWII--two of history’s largest wars--were caused by religion, that before the French Revolution there was no separation of church or religion and state so separating out religion as the cause of war is problematic, and that belief systems, even secular belief systems, can play a role in stemming violence and preserving the best aspects of our humanity.
I read an advanced review copy of this book supplied by the publisher. The review opinions are mine.