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on January 23, 2003
These two accounts are highly readable, and it is wonderful to have them packaged together like this. Geoffrey's chronicle of the 4th Crusade (the one that sacked Constantinople) is an awesome perspective on an often-maligned event. Jean's account of the 7th Crusade and the life of St. Louis is even better. With Jean we catch a rare glimpse of a sensitive warrior fully capable of expressing a wide range of moods and emotions. Both chronicles are well worth reading and will provide the historian and the non-historian alike with hours of enjoyment.
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VINE VOICEon February 12, 2006
The two accounts in _Chronicles of the Crusades_ provide readers with fascinating accounts of the 4th and 7th crusades. Villehardoun's observations of the sack of Constantinople leave some questions regarding whether it was a conspiracy to destroy the city or not; ultimately it is up to the reader to decide... It does, however, provide a window into 12th century warfare and politics.

Joinville's chronicle of the 7th crusade into the Holy Land was similarly fascinating, providing more information about a European's impressions of the Near East and Christian-Islamic conflict than Villehardoun. I much preferred Joinville for this reason. Together, both accounts provide a well-rounded history of the time and place - a tremendously interesting read for professional and armchair historians alike.
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on September 7, 2012
This is an excellent read about the 4th Crusade, it is well worth reading for anyone interested in this part of our history. I learned things I had really never thought about, and I'm a young 80 years old. I Purchased this through my Kindle which I am seldom without.
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on April 13, 2004
These are both excellent accounts of the crusades. Villehardouin proves insightful in what he does not say. A small army of crusaders faces unbelievable odds in Constantinople and yet somehow they conquer and hold this territory. It brings up the question of whether the conquest was an accident or a conspiracy, and a reader can answer that question through careful reading. There are other books wholly committed to this argument of conspiracy vs. accident.
Joinville gives an equally appreciable account of a crusade, this time a failed attempt in Egypt by Saint Louis. Joinville is an author that gives a huge amount of information. The integrity of Louis is apparent as well as the mistakes made by the crusaders (Joinville rarely places direct blame of any failure on Louis, noting instead Louis's brother and his failures.)
This is a well introduced book and is not difficult to read in my opinion.
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on July 14, 2013
Unlike so many histories,this book tells us what were the impressions,views,and experiences of those who were actually there. The best history of the crusaders' experiences I have read. The author's notes helped give those narratives context.
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VINE VOICEon October 26, 2010
This book includes two chronicles about the crusades translated by Margaret Shaw. Geoffrey of Villehardouin's chronicle The Conquest of Constantinople covers the period of 1199 to 1207 from the planning on the "fourth crusade" to death of Boniface the Marquis de Montferrat. Jean of Joinville's chronicle Life of Saint Louis is about King Louis IX of France. It tells the tale of how King Louis ascended to the throne and Jean of Joinville's firsthand account of their adventures during the seventh crusade. The style and content of the chronicles is very different.

Villehardouin at the beginning of The Conquest of Constantinople was the Marshall of Champagne under Thibault the Count of Champagne who took the cross initiating the Fourth Crusade along with a couple of his cousins Louis the Count of Blois and Baldwin (Baudouin) Count of Flanders and Hainault. Villehardouin was one of the principal players in the "fourth crusade" often representing the crusaders in negotiations (including negotiating transport of the crusaders with the Venetians) and participated in numerous battles. He was definitely in a position to provide a complete history of the crusade and its aftermath. Indeed Villehardouin's account often is referenced and cited by modern historians.

Yet in reading Villehardouin's chronicle I often found that he was distorting the politics and affixing blame on others to deflect the immorality of his actions and the other leaders of the crusaders. His chronicle often protects the characters of Boniface the Marquis de Montferrat and Enrico Dandolo the Doge of Venice. The Marquis at the end of Villehardouin's chronicle offers a grant of land to Villehardouin and it was Villehardouin who recommended the Marquis to lead the crusade after Thibault's death. Villehardouin also treats the Doge of Venice well in his chronicle reporting Dandolo's directives as "recommendations" and portraying them in the best light. What in fact happened is Dandolo blackmailed the crusaders on threat of starvation and dishonor into sacking Zara, a Christian city that revolted from Venice. Venice had recently signed treaties with Egypt and had no intention of taking the crusaders there and jeopardize their trade agreements. Dandolo then leads them to Constantinople under a pretense of restoring the son of the deposed Emperor of Byzantium in order to exact unreasonable booty and ultimately sack Constantinople and take control of the Byzantium Empire. Villehardouin's chronicle tells us that the crusaders believed the Emperor to be would be able to fulfill the unrealistic agreement. Maybe the crusader leaders were that foolish or just manipulated by the Doge of Venice who wanted nothing less than the control of Byzantium's trading lanes, but I think their greed got the better of them and they are equally complicit in this crime against Christendom. Once the crusaders start to discuss the occupation of Byzantium, they forget the purpose of their crusade completely.

For the footsoldiers and many of the knights, the attach of Christian lands at Zara are too much and from then on many attempts are made to change the course of crusade back to the Holy Land. Villehardouin dismisses this as cowardice and desire to break up the army. I guess the point of this long criticism is that while there is historical merit to the story, the reader should be cautious in accepting Villehardouin's reasoning due to his obvious bias perspective. In the introduction, Shaw defends Villehardouin's portrayal of the story. She excuses his handling of the story as result of his beliefs of strict military discipline and knightly honor over his oath, and their desire to recover Jerusalem. I don't buy her story, Villehardouin's portrayal of the Venetians is as a man who is an accomplice, not someone who is being dragged into something he is not willing to do.

I enjoyed Jean of Joinville's Life of Saint Louis far more. As indicated by the title this is not just a story of the seventh crusade. It the story King Louis IX. Jean the Lord of Joinville was the Seneschal of Champagne and followed the seventh crusade with two of his cousins. He did not have any personal interaction with King Louis prior to the crusade, later during the crusade he became very close friends with the king. Before the story starts, Jean gives a dedication where he explains why he wrote his chronicle. He then gives some examples King Louis's pious actions and beliefs as well as his just handling of his administration. The story continues with the king ascending to the throne and the civil war that erupts in France as the king's authority is challenged in his minority. Next the chronicle continues the origin of the seventh crusade. The voyage to Cyprus and then Egypt is described followed by the battles and defeat of King Louis in Egypt. The story then shifts to King Louis's journey and activities in Acre after paying ransom for his release. Jean then tells of returning home and King Louis's adminastration of his realm after the crusade. He finishes by telling of King Louis's death during eighth crusade and his canonization as a saint. Jean did not join the eighth crusade due to illness so he limits his discussion of this.

Jean's chronicle of the crusade itself is less of a history and more of his firsthand accounts. His work is not clouded by the political bias that Villehardouin suffers from. Jean tells what happened based on what he saw and heard during the conflict. It is a very human account and the description of the king and Jean during captivity is memorable. Jean also mixes up the chronicle with tidbits about the customs and strange things he witnessed while on his travels.

I recommend this collection as they are firsthand accounts. You can read newer more complete histories, but it always important to see what was said by the people who were actually there. I would recommend The Dream and the Tomb: A History of the Crusades and The Crusades Through Arab Eyes as companions if you have interests in the crusades and A Short History of Byzantium if you have interest in Byzantium and how the "fourth crusade" fits into the destruction of the empire or disintegration of the Latin rule over Constantinople.
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on November 2, 2012
Originally I skimmed through this book almost a decade ago in preparation for my Senior History Oral Exam and only focused on the overall theme questions listed in my study guide at the time. However this past week while actually reading Chronicles of the Crusades and found thanks to the excellent translation, a easy read and very informative on its subject matters. Of the two chroniclers, I found Jean de Joinville the easier to read because of his style of writing. Most likely the spread and evolution of romantic literature influenced Joinville's style of being more down-to-earth and slightly easier to read when compared to Geoffrey of Villehardouin, who was more matter-of-fact and somewhat "stiff." However, just because Geoffrey's style is a little "stiffer" doesn't mean it's not easy to read nor informative about the establish and early years of the Latin Empire of Constantinople. If you're interested about first-hand accounts of the Crusades, specifically the 4th and 7th, this is the book for you.
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on August 1, 2012
Got this at goodwill. This is an incredible account of the crusades by 2 individuals who were there. Jean De Joinville joined the 7th crusade, & Geoffroy De Villehardouin joined the 4th crusade. The accounts are very easy to read & follow. A lot of coverage in the account of the 4th crusade is about the conquest of Constantinople, who by the way had asked for help in the orginal crusade. The account of the 7th crusade goes more direct to the holy land than the 4th one did. I love it. Fantastic accounts about a bloody time in history that still plagues us to this day.
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on December 15, 2011
I had to read this book for a Crusades class, but I actually ended up enjoying it! I only had to read the part written by Villehardouin and not the part by Joinville. Villehardouin was very good at telling the descriptions of the events without being too biased and in a very interesting way. I would recommend it for sure to anyone who is interested in the Crusades.
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on February 4, 2007
Chronicles of the Crusades is a chronicle of the Crusades from two of the senior participants who took part in two of the Crusades. The book covers the descriptions of the fourth and the seventh crusades as seen through the eyes of Geoffroy De Villehardouin (who took part in the fourth crusade) and Jean De Joinville (who took part in the seventh crusade). The two chronicles were translated for this book by Margaret Shaw. The book was published in 1963 around the time of her death. The two chronicles give us a look into the two crusades as chronicled through the eyes of two important noblemen of their time. This in itself will taint the purity of the chronicle. Chronicles such as these lay out the justifications for the crusades and tend to gloss over the blemishes. These two are no different. They were written to glorify the Crusaders and surely the writers would not put on ink anything that would later detract from their names. These chronicles do an excellent job of showing how the two chroniclers thought and how they wanted these two crusades remembered. When this book is read this should be kept in mind. The average crusader was a mixture of those driven by greed and religious extremists. The crusaders were allowed to plunder the lands they conquered. In today's terms they were allowed to take war trophies, thus stealing from the inhabitants of the land. They were barbaric in their means of taking the land and the raping of women was allowed, if the women were not of the Christian faith. The fourth crusade received condemnation on its behavior when the Christian city of Constantinople was sacked. This was due to the crusaders raping of the women. This of course is not pointed out by Villehardouin. The chroniclers mention a little of the plunder, but do not mention anything else. Though the chroniclers are quick to point out the cruelty of the Saracens. Margaret Shaw refers to these two chronicles as being the most reliable accounts of the crusades written in French. I would have to disagree that these chronicles should be taken as completely accurate. Joinville refers to Prestor John as if he was a person who actually existed, thus showing that his accounts are not strictly cemented in fact. The chronicles give an overview of the crusades and do not go into much detail on the equipment used and the everyday life of the average crusader. This book is a good book to show the chroniclers thoughts and perspectives but if you are trying to get an accurate picture of what happened during these crusades I would look into other books as well. Such books that describe the opposing views as seen from the Muslim side and other books that can give specifics on how the crusaders lived and their equipment could help in understanding these crusades better. I am giving this book 5 stars because it does accurately convey it's title. It does cover the Chronicles of the Crusades.
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