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206 of 214 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Primer on the Crusades
I just finished reading Thomas Madden's "A New Concise History of the Crusades". I have recently become an interested student of the Crusades, and this is the third book I have read on the topic. The book gave me thorough overview of the various Crusades, when they occurred, and who the major players were. I think the word concise is very appropriate, as Prof. Madden...
Published on October 31, 2005 by Brian A. Hathaway

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16 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not great history, read Asbridge's book instead
I've been reading and comparing Madden's History of the Crusades with Thomas Asbridge's book The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land. There were some advantages in reading both, for on occasion I would find an interesting detail or idea in Madden's book missing in Asbridge. But Asbridge's is by far the superior book. His book is far more...
Published on June 8, 2005 by C.N. Cotten


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16 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not great history, read Asbridge's book instead, June 8, 2005
This review is from: The New Concise History of the Crusades (Critical Issues in World and International History) (Paperback)
I've been reading and comparing Madden's History of the Crusades with Thomas Asbridge's book The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land. There were some advantages in reading both, for on occasion I would find an interesting detail or idea in Madden's book missing in Asbridge. But Asbridge's is by far the superior book. His book is far more lively and balanced -- and by this I don't mean in Crusader bashing, I mean Asbridge takes a more critical eye to what the Crusades did and did not accomplish. For Madden, a professor at St Louis, a Catholic Jesuit University that just isn't so.

So to those of you who like history to be entertaining but also tightly argued, then I strongly recommend Thomas Asbridge (as does Madden himself in his bibliography).

Reviews of Madden on Amazon seem divided. Many like him, but some didn't. From reading those reviews it was difficult for me to tell who to believe. Having read much of Madden, I now feel duped by the positive review as Madden serves up a largely uncritical defense of the Crusades. In fairness, his book may be an overreaction to negative stereotypes of the Crusaders -- if so, it swings too far the other way. Madden selectively culls through history, going through the motions of being critical, but in the end delivers a highly manipulated version of that history. You never feel with Madden that you are in the presence of a particularly strong and curious mind.

Judging by the comments here on Amazon, those who like Madden will criticize any negative review of his book as coming from the politically correct, soft on Muslim-extremists crowd. Poppycock. I wasn't looking for a politically correct version of the crusades. You can be proud of Western culture, admire the faith and courage of the Crusaders, think they often get a raw deal, and still not think much of Madden's book.

In the more detailed review below I include some excerpts from the book so you can judge for yourself.

* * * * * * * * *

I first purchased Madden's book a few years ago but initially gave up on it because I just found it dull. Madden was unable to make the cast of characters of the Crusades come alive. I kept falling asleep trying to remember how Geoffrey of Bouillon differed from his brother, Baldwin of Boulgne, let alone remember what differentiates Baldwin I,II,III, IV,V from Baldwin of Flanders, Bourcq, or Boulogne. I found few compelling narratives, eye for a revealing detail or anecdote -- and you would have thought the Crusades were rife with stories. Those stories do exist and they are well told in Asbridge.

After I began reading Asbridge's book, I again tried Madden and read them concurrently. Initially, Madden's biases were subtle and it was only in reading Asbridge that I discovered how carefully Madden chooses what he tells you and what he doesn't. So sometimes his arguments made sense but then I'd read Asbridge or look something up on the internet and think, "Oh, Madden never said that."

For instance, on the conquest of Jerusalem by the First Crusades, both Madden and Asbridge tell you the number of Muslims who were killed after the city fell was probably overestimated. But for Madden, this becomes the sole focus, as instead of primary accounts of what happened (which he is later more than happy to provide when Muslims slaughter far fewer Crusaders), we just get lectured, pg 34: "By the standards of the time, adhered to by both Christians and Muslims, the crusaders would have been justified in putting the entire population of Jerusalem to the sword... Later stories of the streets of Jerusalem coursing with knee-high blood were never meant to be taken seriously. Medieval people knew such thing to be an impossibility. Modern people, unfortunately, often do not."

In contrast, Asbridge warns you of the exaggeration (as well as gives you the numbers estimated by various sources) but he also gives primary source descriptions as well (Asbridge, pg 101): "Some of the pagans were mercifully beheaded.... yet others, tortured for a long time... Piles of heads, hands, and feet lay in the houses and streets.... So gruesome was the carnage that, according to one Latin, even the soldiers who were carrying out the killing could hardly bear the vapours rising from the warm blood." Six months later a visiting Latin said, "the Holy City still reeked of death and decay."

Yet when the Muslims retake Jerusalem under Saladin, and despite Saladin granting (after negotiation) generous surrender terms, and later honoring those terms, a sour Madden will merely grumble, "many could not afford the cost" of purchasing their freedom. Mr. Madden has come far from his prior, "By the standards of the time... they would have been justified in putting the entire population of Jerusalem to the sword."

This isn't to say Asbridge paints Saladin as a paragon. In fact, Asbridge gives more accounts of Saladin's treachery and machinations than does Madden, especially during Saladin's rise to power. In general, Asbridge does a far superior job than Madden of highlighting underlying divisions within both Muslim and Crusader camps. Understanding these internal rivalries and how they influenced events is often critical and, for me, part of the fun of reading about this period.

In battle scenes, Madden will take the view of the Crusaders, for instance, telling you repeatedly about their thirst prior to a major defeat at the Battle of Hattin, but remarkably, never telling you why they were thirsty; they had walked into a trap where Saladin had plugged up potential water sources in the arid land. This happens again and again in this book. It's like reading a book about WWII and the author being afraid to tell you about the attributes of the German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel. Why even bother reading history if you only want facts that support your view?

Elsewhere, on the anti-jewish Crusades where the crusaders killed and pillaged thousands of European Jews, Madden has written, "In a modern war, we call tragic deaths like these collateral damage. Even with smart technologies, the United States has killed far more innocents in our wars than the Crusaders ever could." Does Madden really not know the difference between war crimes against innocents (a thousand miles from the battlefield) and collateral damage? Besides, we don't put whole cities to death for failing to capitulate. What's more his comparison is like comparing the total murders in a small town with those in NYC, if you fight in smaller cities (Jerusalem in 1130 AD had 30,000) you will have fewer deaths than in larger cities (today's Bagdad has 7 million). If you fight with swords you will have fewer deaths than with bombs. Such silly comparisons makes me question Madden's academic credentials.

Anyway, I'll wrap this up by giving you Madden's concluding paragraph, pg 225 (for brevity I skip a few sentences), they'll give you a flavor for Madden's style and analysis:

"In a less direct sense, the crusades did play a part in the eventual neutralization of the Muslim threat. In Spain, .... veterans of the reconquista and crusades of in North Africa became the conquistadors of the New World... The conquistadors were warriors of Christ in an infidel land. There, they carved out new Christian states. Without hesitation, they raised their swords against the barbaric cultures of Aztec human sacrifice, which, they were convinced, were Satanic in origin. They also were desirous of booty, which the New World had in abundance. These facts all match well-established characteristics of the crusades. Spanish galleons laden with New World gold and silver financed more than one Holy League against the Turks. More than that, the new wealth, coupled with a rise in industrial technology, allowed Europe to purchase raw materials from the Ottomans and sell back to them finished goods at bargain prices...unable to compete with Europe's skyrocketing economy, the Ottoman Empire slowly bled to death. In the end, the discovery and exploitation of the New World not only saved western Europe but also propelled it to world hegemony. Ironically, the Muslim threat was neutralized not by the crusades to the East, but by those to the West."

What Madden is trying to claim here is this: the Crusaders saved the West. But Madden knows there's a problem here, because the Crusaders weren't really victorious in the field, if anything, the Muslims emerged stronger, and as football coach, Bill Parcells, once said, "you are what your record says you are." So Madden needs a way around this.

This is what he claims: because the Crusaders failed to displace the Muslims in the Middle East, the Western Europeans had to find an alternative trade route to India. This led to the age of exploration and inadvertently to the discovery of the New World. This is the beginning of Madden's second "crusade" and a chance for team Madden's redemption.

Spain is Madden's ideal model of a 16th century crusading nation. Why Spain? Well, Madden can't use the English or Dutch because they have become Protestant and the Protestants, especially Martin Luther (pg 208), are suspect in Madden's book because they're no longer enthusiastic crusaders and are unwilling dupes of the Ottomans, as they don't understand that their true enemy isn't France or Spain, it's the Muslims. Therefore, they fail to respond to the call for a 16th century Crusade. Of course, many of the Protestant countries were probably just too busy building the very Western European economies that Mr. Madden just lauded. Besides, if Mr. Madden hadn't learnt anything about the futility of 400 years of fighting the Muslims on their home turf, perhaps they had.

Next Catholic France gets downgraded in Madden's book because France recently signed a treaty with the Ottomans (pg 208) -- but what Mr. Madden doesn't want to tell you is why the French allied with the Ottoman's, because that might suggest they feared the Catholic Habsburgs more than the Muslims (and that wouldn't square with Madden's grand global vision). So we are left with only Spain that fully understands the world as clearly as does Mr. Madden (never mind that Catholic Spain is by now allied with Muslim Persia because you weren't told that either).

Lepanto, won by the Holy League in 1571, merely shows that even a highly divided West (despite all Mr. Madden's lamentations over their missing Christian European allies) could defeat the Ottomans in a battle closer to home. If anything, it suggests that fighting a largely defensive war against the Muslims in Europe was probably a wiser military strategy than the Crusader offensive war in the Middle East (which Madden keeps promoting). Indeed it was not until World War I that a Western European nation, Britain, could wrest control of Jerusalem from the Ottomans, the longstanding "sick man of Europe."

So what happened to Madden's ideal 16th century crusading nation, Spain? Well to paraphrase Madden's own closing statement: Spain "without hesitation, raised her sword against the barbaric lands" of Protestantism, "which, they were convinced, were Satanic in origin." In the process Spain lost her Armada, all her Dutch possessions, and declared bankruptcy. "Unable to compete with Europe's skyrocketing economy, the Spanish Empire slowly bled to death." In many ways then Spain's fate mirrors that of the Ottoman Empire.

In short, if you want to understand more about what the Crusades did and did not accomplish read Asbridge. Even Madden says Asbridge's books are engaging... on at least that we agree.
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15 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Humble Crusades, March 24, 2006
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This book is 200 and some pages efficiently developed to find and fit many missing pieces to the "Crusades" puzzle. Madden's key is to thrust the reader immediately into a Middle Age mindset. By doing such, he removes the block that modernity's skepticism toward religion would otherwise be. We, who are enveloped by faith in reason, seem confused about the motives of those wrapped by reason in faith. So, the book is a great overview of the "Crusades" and their humble goals.

However, caveat lector, for the book also implies the question: what else do we know so well as history which is really myth? For example, the Spanish Inquisition was (fill in the blank). Yet compared to what? Oliver Cromwell in Drogheda? Trotsky's hopeless henchmen in terror in Russia? Béla Kun's forced conversions in Hungary? Hitler's blood tests? Stalin's trials? Perhaps the tool of inquisition was nothing more than a medieval version of the Patriot Act combined with "rendition". Surely, post-enlightenment man's violence for cause argues that the Papacy was not the taproot of this human tendency.

As to solace in "sola scriptura", it clearly has difficulties as well. Say what you want about that Moses fellow; but according to scripture, he knew how to plan and "execute" too. I think I finally get Chesterton's Battle of Lepanto. He, like Yogi Berra, knew that it ain't over, 'til it's over. There seems no end in sight to sectarian conflict, no matter the Book they have in common.

I conclude that this book is worth the money to buy and the time to read just for the revelation that it is only recently that the "Crusades" have a point of significance in the Arab mind and Muslim world. The Muslim world was strong and threatening long after the "Crusades". To the Muslims, the Christian states in the Near East were a nuisance, addressed satisfactorily in time. Today, the "Crusades" are used opportunistically, by oriental and occidental opportunists. Yet, when they use the term crusade, it has little resemblance to the humble "Crusades" of this work.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellet Starting Point, September 5, 2013
This review is from: The New Concise History of the Crusades (Critical Issues in World and International History) (Paperback)
This book is exactly what it purports to be. It reduces over 200 years of history into a short readable outline. Most likely there is a full book exploring the content of any given page. It is an achievement of the author to distill this into just over 200 pages.

Most western adults will not know much about this endeavor. They could only guess at the duration, what was accomplished and outside of Richard I, would most likely not be able to name a participant (I tried this, got 100 years, 3 Crusades and Lancelot!). I think it is glossed over in the high school curriculum due to its complexity, its ugliness and the dubious value of its accomplishments. Madden is even handed. His description of the piety and the devotion of some of its participants balances out the narratives that show the imperialistic motives of some of its leaders.

Even the first Crusade, which accomplished its goal and was glorified at the time, had leaders who broke their word to a fellow Christian, the Emperor in Constantinople. Subsequent Crusaders called it quits due to catastrophic losses or spectacular wins with sufficient booty to return home with some wealth. Noble after noble declared himself King and/or Queen of Jerusalem and then fought to attain the status, not only with the Muslims who held the city, but also with each other. All the while, new Crusaders were recruited from among the faithful. Some nobles gave up their lands and possessions, and common soldiers gave up all to take the Crusader vows. Francis of Assisi journeyed to Egypt to convert Sultan al-Kamil to Christianity.

Madden shows how Crusading was a local affair as well. The Reconquista of Spain, begun several centuries before the formal designation of Crusade, is a clear victory for the Catholics. The Albigensian Crusade, which also meets its aims, seems to be a sanctified witch hunt combined with a territorial war. The Children's Crusade sounds like a group of zealots dispersing into reality at the end of their march.

Amid all the destruction and the shattered lives of survivors, there are fascinating personalities. Places such as Constantinople, Damascus and Cyprus have their own unique sagas over these years.

If you have read, as I have, pieces of the Crusade story in biographies and other histories this is a particularly good book for you. It gives you a good background in one cohesive narrative.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, June 26, 2006
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Dan "DSG" (Pontotoc, Ms USA) - See all my reviews
Very informative. There seems to not be much information available concerning the Crusades, that is affordable and qualified as this book is. Excellent reading but not a "picture book" if you are looking only to view sculpture/artwork. This book is solely for the reader who is truly interested.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice Overview, Great for Students or those who need a quick review., April 30, 2008
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This review is from: The New Concise History of the Crusades (Critical Issues in World and International History) (Paperback)
Last year I found myself needing a quick refresher on the crusades. What I wanted was a modern look not a book from 20-30 years ago. This book fit the bill perfectly,it could have been 50 pages longer where I was very interested in a specific topic but everyone will have a different focus while reading it so maybe it's just fine how it is.Great starter on the middle east or perfect for HS or beginning college students.Easy to read and understand with detailed descriptions of many key events.This book will help you better understand why and where WE are in the middle east today.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As the title read, "A Concise History...", November 12, 2009
This review is from: The New Concise History of the Crusades (Critical Issues in World and International History) (Paperback)
Madden does a fine job in introducing the layman and student alike to the history of the crusades. He touches on each of them with enough information to get students up to speed on the history and writes in a very appealing manner that keeps the readers attention, not to mention turning the pages into the late hours of the night. I can highly recommend this book to any person interested in learning about the crusades. It is a really great starting point if you have never read about the crusades. I can also recommend "The Crusades Through Arab Eyes" by Amin Maalouf for a different perspective of the period, not to mention some idea as to the long running hostilities still felt in some parts of the world today. Hostilities that may have roots from 1099, Saladin, Richard the Lionheart etc.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Background Book, April 27, 2008
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This review is from: The New Concise History of the Crusades (Critical Issues in World and International History) (Paperback)
A great place to begin your study of the crusades. Very accurate and still readable by the new student. The book is relatively short for books on the crusades, only 300 pages - and is an easy read.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine for Highschool or Freshman History, March 5, 2013
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This review is from: The New Concise History of the Crusades (Critical Issues in World and International History) (Paperback)
An easy enough read and a good quick facts-straight reference for those new to the subject. For those more knowleadgeable will read as dumbed down but still good quick reference. Author's discussion of relevance of Crusades and times to the present intelligent and gives pause for thought.
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8 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A study of Church and State, November 22, 2006
By 
Chares G. Muhle (Anaheim, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The New Concise History of the Crusades (Critical Issues in World and International History) (Paperback)
I decided to read T. Madden's book because it hinted at helping me understand today's middle east mindsets that got shaped, partially, by hundreds of years of crusades. Read killing, looting, oppression, interference, injustice and sometimes heroism by both sides.

Well the crusades DID affect the extant mid-east mindsets that today puzzle many in the west. But to understand the connection, we need, first, to step back and absorb the culture of Europe circa1200.

To illustrate how important context is, let us look at some practices that were acceptable in our own country in only the last two hundred and thirty years.

If a man stole a horse, he could expect to be shot. Women couldn't vote. Land was routinely grabbed from the native populace without compensation. Illegitimate children were a disgrace. Women doctors? Unheard of. Clerical abuse? Denied. Sweatshops? Necessary. Slavery? Required.

Thankfully, these practices are no longer considered acceptable and now most of us feel uncomfortable explaining them to our children.

Let's jump to the Europe of the 13th century. Hundreds of kingdoms and fiefdoms large and small each with a "noble" authority. Some ambitious, some enlightened, some cruel, some ruthless. Sprinkle in royal marriages to consolidate power. Create a wide gap between the rich and poor. Blend in a minority of idealistic aristocrats who believe honor and bravery are essential to their knighthood calling.

Now superimpose over this set an all powerful dogmatic influence that rules the rulers and you have the Holy Roman Empire live. With carrot and stick (read grace and excommunication), starting with Pope Urban II in 1906, one pope after another urged the powerful of Europe to rescue the Holy Land near Jerusalem from Muslim control. The (largely Catholic) powerful saluted, assembled men, arms, ships and invoked the support of God Himself to war against the infidels.

Many of these campaigns got sidetracked and settled for other destinations like Egypt, Turkey, Constantinople, Damascus, Tunis,

Antioch, the list is endless. Pillaging the countryside as they marched or looting the captured cities -all in the name of God- was "acceptable".

If their motivation evaporated, there was always another Pope to reinvigorate the call, from the first crusade in 1095 to the fifth in 1218 until the crusade of Maximallian in 1518.

During this time, the Holy Roman Empire saw its influence ebb and flow. Saw the struggle to resolve the contention of two popes claiming to be the Holy See from 1378 to 1409. Saw the emergence of Martin Luther in 1517. Happily, as Europe "grew up" the military influence of popes dissolved.

When children today hear what "wrong things" went on early in our country's growth, they shake their heads in disbelief. When I read that 13th century Europe was repeatedly urged to wage war by an entity whose only claim to authority was a religious belief, I too shake my head in disbelief. Could the Crusades have been an early jihad?

Thomas Madden's book will get you shaking your head. In particular, The chapter on Legacy and the book's Conclusion will, indeed, help you understand the mid-east reaction to the latest crusade-like-foreign presence.

But the book also shows what incredible suffering can evolve from ANY overzealous religious dogma that somehow finds traction.
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52 of 144 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Approach with caution, January 7, 2008
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This review is from: The New Concise History of the Crusades (Critical Issues in World and International History) (Paperback)
I would take Madden's claims with a large grain of salt. In particular he claims that the image of the Crusades as wars of conquest are a "myth." He argues that they were purely defensive responses to Muslim agression, that they had little or no motive of wealth, and that the crusaders were responding to the Byzantines' pleas for help in recovering their captured lands.

However it's difficult to claim that the Catholic church was "defending itself" by attacking Jerusalem time and time again for 150 years. The real Islamic threat to Catholic lands was all the way on the other end of the Mediterranean, in Spain. And if the crusaders wanted no lands, and wished only to return the lands lost by the Byzantine Empire, then why did they keep the land they took for themselves? Why did Urban himself tell the crusaders to take the wealth of the holy lands and "subject it to yourselves" when he first called for the crusades? The Byzantines didn't see a single acre of land returned from the crusaders' conquests - and in fact the Fourth Crusade destroyed the Empire itself with the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

Madden's book is interesting mainly as an introduction to anti-Islamic apology and revisionist history. The facts of what the crusaders actually did are hard to reconcile with Madden's claims about their motives.
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