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Defending the City of God: A Medieval Queen, the First Crusades, and the Quest for Peace in Jerusalem Hardcover – April 29, 2014


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Editorial Reviews

Review

Newman… takes readers to the 12th century Near East, where European Crusaders clashed with Muslim denizens over the territory, with sacred Jerusalem at its center ruled by the dynasty of controversial Queen Melisende. (Publishers Weekly)

This book is an intriguing and full account of the early crusades with a well-balanced emphasis on the role of women in the states that the crusaders created in the Holy Land. It is a lively story told on the basis of thorough and up-to-date research. The star is Melisende, Queen of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and a woman whose wisdom and power are all the more remarkable for the fact that the crusaders, once established, quarreled and fought amongst themselves. The supporting cast includes the other important women in the crusading states as well as the men who doomed them by their irrepressible internecine wars. The reader looks forward to hearing more about Melisende. (Professor Jeffrey Burton Russell, University of California Santa Barbara)

Take a gifted writer-historian, a strong-willed medieval queen, and the result is a biography that is as impossible to put down as the most suspenseful novel. (Sharon Kay Penman, New York Times Bestselling author of Lionheart)

This is an amazing study of an amazing woman in amazing times---the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the Crusades, a lost world that continues to intrigue us. Using every scrap of surviving evidence, Sharan Newman pieces together a detailed life and times of the remarkable Queen Melisende who ruled the Crusader prize city, Jerusalem, in her own right in the mid-1100s. Long a staple of romantic legend, Melisende emerges here as a genuine historic presence. (Margaret George, author of The Memoirs of Cleopatra)

With her impressive narrative drive, Sharan Newman here invites us to consider attempts by the "Franks" to forge new Christian societies in the disputed Holy Lands of the Near East during the twelfth century. In spite of exhausting endless warfare in the region--sometimes among and sometimes between different ethnic and religious groups--hereditary female power was briefly a norm. Using every possible historical record, Newman focuses a strong light on Queen Melisende as daughter, wife, mother, sponsor, and (mostly) as a moderate and independent ruler. This book is a fine historical achievement, an absolute "must read" for all of us worried about the misery of the Near East then and now. Grieve for Aleppo! (Bonnie Wheeler, Southern Methodist University, series editor, The New Middle Ages)

About the Author

Sharan Newman is a medieval historian and award-winning author of nonfiction and fiction. Her books include The Real History Behind the Templars and The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code . She's been featured in The Catholic World Report, The Oregonian, Fortean Times, Yahoo! Voices, and on TLC. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade; First Edition edition (April 29, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 113727865X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1137278654
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #462,167 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author



Sharan Newman is a medieval historian and author. She took her Master's degree in Medieval Literature at Michigan State University and then did her doctoral work at the University of California at Santa Barbara in Medieval Studies, specializing in twelfth-century France. She is a member of the Medieval Academy and the Medieval Association of the Pacific.

Rather than teach, Newman chose to use her education to write novels set in the Middle Ages, including three Arthurian fantasies and ten mysteries set in twelfth-century France, featuring Catherine LeVendeur a one-time student of Heloise at the Paraclete, her husband, Edgar, an Anglo-Scot and Solomon, a Jewish merchant of Paris. The books focus on the life of the bourgeoisie and minor nobility and also the uneasy relations between Christians and Jews at that time. They also incorporate events of the twelfth-century such as the Second Crusade and the rise of the Cathars.

For these books, Newman has done research at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris where she is a Grand Lecteur, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique France Méridionale et Espagne at the University of Toulouse and the Institute for Jewish History at the University of Trier, as well as many departmental archives.

The Catherine Levendeur mysteries have been nominated for many awards. Sharan won the Macavity Award for best first mystery for "Death Comes As Epiphany" and the Herodotus Award for best historical mystery of 1998 for Cursed in the Blood. The most recent book in the series The Witch in the Well won the Bruce Alexander award for best Historical mystery of 2004.

Just for a change, she set her most recent mystery, The Shanghai Tunnel (Forge 2008) in Portland. Oregon in 1868.

Newman has written a non-fiction book, The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code, Berkley 2005. It is in encyclopedia format and gives information on various topics mentioned in Dan Brown's novel and has been translated worldwide. For this she appeared on radio and television programs internationally. She has also appeared on several documentaries about the book. Following on that she wrote the Real History Behind the Templars published by Berkley in September of 2007. It was while doing the research for this book that she noticed how important Queen Melisende was to the Kingdome of Jerusalem and how little had been written about her. She is currently working on a biography of Melisende, the first native-born queen and first female ruler of Crusader Jerusalem. This will be published in early 2014.

Her most recent non-fiction is The Real History of the End of the World, Berkley, 2010. She has kept abreast of the latest threats to our continued existence on her blog, Apocalypses and Other Thoughts, which can be reached through her website.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Sinohey TOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
The book is a well written, well researched and documented account of a little known period of history, the First Crusade and a forgotten great queen, Melisende of Jerusalem.

Ms. Newman skillfully weaves together the various ethnicities, cultures, religions and their influence on the complicated, often contentious, relationships between the populace.
The deft hand of the historian, in concert with the seasoned novelist, have produced a very interesting and informative book. At first blush, it may seem too complex, involving too many characters and events but as the reader perseveres, the rewards are worth the effort. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lucille Hamm on August 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent book on the politics and history of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Many details of life for the Jews, Christians and Muslims who inhabited the Middle East during the time of the Crusades. The main character is Melisende, as young girl and later Queen of Jerasulem. It goes well with Elizabeth Chadwick's The Falcons of Montbrad. It was on her website that I learned of this book. Most people described actually existed. It reads like a novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ann on August 26, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a well researched history of the Crusader Era. Newman presents us with strong female characters and researches the times of the crusaders using convincing arguments. This book is punctuated with humor, making it enjoyable to read. Newman also draws parallels between modern day middle eastern issues and historical trends and events. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys history and wants a clearer understanding of The Middle East.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By wrwaugh@virginislands.net on August 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I expected this to be historical fiction because that is what the author often writes. This is a non-fiction book with extensive footnotes. It is interesting but a bit dry to read. The era and history covered by the book are little known to me so the book is very informative.
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