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A History of the Crusades Vol. I: The First Crusade and the Foundations of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Volume 1) Paperback – December 25, 1987

4.2 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


'I do not know when, in recent years, I have read a book which so enlarged my knowledge of and interest in a period of history ... It sets before us one of the formidable moral and romantic epics of our time, with scholarship and imagination worthy of it.' The Times Literary Supplement

'The three volumes ring with battle trumpets and drums, glitter with the splendor of noble parades, and are replete with true stories of bravery and cowardliness, rash daring and wily intrigue ... To the specialist (Runicman) offers a wealth of new interpretations ... To the layman, he tenders romance and suspense at nearly every page.' The Yale Review

' ... the best scholarly survey of the subject by a single author. It will always remain the first considerable work of its kind in the English language.' The English Historical Review

'One of the grand historical monuments of the twentieth century ... Written with imagination and based on immense scholarship, (the volumes) are filled with true stories of rash daring and wily intrigue as the flower of Western knighthood assaults the infidel East for God, gold and glory.' Washington Post Book World

Book Description

Sir Steven Runciman's, A History of the Crusades, explores the First Crusade and the foundation of the kingdom of Jerusalem. It is one of the great classics of English historical writing and a great survey of the time.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 394 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (December 25, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 052134770X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521347709
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,692 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on October 5, 1997
Format: Paperback
So you didn't like history either ? After being crammed withuseless dates and uninteresting facts about the decaying kings andkingdoms I never expected to ever pick up a history book again. So imagine my scepticism when somebody said that I "absolutely must" read Runciman's History of the Crusades...a work of history confined to only 3 volumes and enough pages to make any Russian author turn green with envy. And what a story...Runciman covers the 500 years of Middle East history with all the ingredients for a action packed thriller. The history is full of strong characters, mighty kings, impoverished adventurers and deceitful leaders. This is a tale of the clash of culture in its original form the east-west clash has its roots in these volotile times. The best part about these stories is not so much the historical matter of which they are made up but Runciman's presentation of his material. He manages an almost incredible amount of original and later sources without losing sight of his goal: a readable account of these fantastic times. The politics in these pages inspire to further studies of the period. There is nothing today which can mach the intrigue found in these pages and few writers have managed to make history come alive in such a thought provoking mix. What can I say ? I have a large library and since Runciman several historical works but nothing seems to ever reach the heights he attains or the inspiration. He is probably the only writer I feel able to read again and again without become tired in the repetition. Three volumes and 600 years defy explanation, within the covers one meets the greats like Baibers, Baldwin, the great Khan, Saladin and Richard the Lionheart and travels to the mystic scenes of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Antioch. How can I say "must read" any plainer without sounding banal ?
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Format: Paperback
Sir Steven's monumental study has held its appeal for over 60 years. These books have two main merits beyond the author's considerable literary gifts. As a Byzantinist, he situates the Crusades in both European and Middle Eastern contexts, giving due attention to Muslim Turks and Arabs, Jews, Greeks, Armenians and other Eastern Christians, and he uses Eastern sources quite well. Other histories typically treat the crusading phenomenon mostly as an episode in Europe's development, but Runciman aptly sees it as a major world-historical phenomenon. The rich narrative combines storytelling with analysis of historical controversies. It is not a complete tale of all medieval Crusades, since he mostly omits wars against Muslim Spain, Eastern Slavs, Christian heretics, and crusading episodes after the fall of Acre in 1291. But this "limited" focus on the eastern Mediterranean makes the work tighter and more coherent. Other historians like K. Setton & H. Mayer retain much of Runciman's analytical framework, though their interpretations vary. Successors like J. Riley-Smith present some valid critiques and expand the scope with more coverage of non-Levantine crusades, but again restrict crusading to its traditional European context. Volumes 2 and 3 on the Kingdoms of Jerusalem and Acre are also superb, but they seem less novel after the unprecedented events of the First Crusade. More recent studies (e.g. by C. Tyerman & R-S) challenge some of Runciman's judgements, but much of the basic research stands up well enough. T. Asbridge, "The First Crusade" is now probably the premier analytical narrative. The most intriguing alternatives on the Crusades present non-Christian views, e.g. A. Maalouf, "The Crusades Through Arab Eyes;" F.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
Western Europe in the middle ages is often depicted as a static and insular social system--and, to be sure, certain aspects of medieval history support that impression. But the events described in this fine book challenge such portrayals, showing a Western Europe in the eleventh century that was intimately involved in the eastern Mediterranean. Runciman traces this interaction back to the Roman Empire, beginning his book with a charmingly concise yet informative history of Christian society in the East. We see how alert the West was to events in Asia Minor and the Levant: I was struck by how, a thousand years ago, tourism was such an important industry. Constantinople functioned almost as a modern-day theme park--with relics, art and architecture being the big-budget attractions--and as a crucial transportation hub along the pilgrimage route. The breakdown of this tourist industry due to local political instability--and its importance to the West--is what proximally prompted the Crusades. And in the Crusades themselves is reflected the dynamic nature of medieval political history; in particular we see the restless aspirations of the powerful Norman warlords (especially their somewhat disenfranchised younger sons) played out as a key military motor of the Crusades. Reading the background Runciman gives to the Normans (Christianized descendants of the Vikings), and the Seldjuks (Islamized descendants of Turkish nomads), I could not help but notice a certain loose symmetry to their stories, and it didn't seem so odd that they would meet at the interface of the two great Mediterranean faiths.Read more ›
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