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The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land Hardcover – March 9, 2010

4.4 out of 5 stars 267 customer reviews

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Hardcover, March 9, 2010
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Author of The First Crusade (2004), British historian Asbridge widens his vista to the entire 1195–1291 duration of the crusading era, giving prominence in the holy-war epic to antagonists forever famous: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. Each leader’s role as standard-bearer of his cause reflects Asbridge’s significant emphasis on the entanglement of secular politics with the overt religious aspect to the wars between Latin Christianity and Islam. Crass considerations of dynastic power were never separate from the calculations of these champions and their successors, and partly indicate Islam’s desultory pace in expunging the Christian states established by the First Crusade. In addition, medieval warfare’s high-risk character—in which a single encounter, such as the 1098 siege of Antioch or the 1187 Battle of Hattin, could completely turn the strategic tables—goes far in Asbridge’s able hands to informing readers about the course of the Crusades. With perceptive commentary about spiritual motivations behind crusading and perspectives from contemporary Islamic sources, Asbridge constructs a comprehensive, sophisticated, and arresting analytical narrative rewarding to any level of historical interest, whether recreational or scholarly. --Gilbert Taylor


“Brilliant, authoritative, and accessible, Thomas Asbridge’s THE CRUSADES is a must read. Asbridge balances impeccable scholarship with a gifted storyteller’s engaging voice. He vividly portrays the driving forces and personalities, the perspectives of Christians and Muslims, and the legacy of the Crusades in Christian and Muslim history and imagination.” (Professor John L. Esposito, Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, and author of The Future of Islam.)

“A truly comprehensive history of holy war in the Holy Land. Emphasizing the dramatic Third Crusade and its heroic antagonists, Richard the Lionheart and Saladin, the narrative reads like an adventure story, albeit one that is both factual and instructive.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1 edition (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060787287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060787288
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (267 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,549 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Thomas Asbridge is Reader in Medieval History at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of 'The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones' (2014), 'The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land' (2010) and 'The First Crusade: A New History' (2004). He studied for a BA in Ancient and Medieval History at Cardiff University, and then gained his PhD in Medieval History at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Thomas wrote and presented a BBC documentary, 'The Greatest Knight: William Marshal', and a landmark three-part documentary series 'The Crusades' for the BBC, filmed on location across the Near East and Europe. He has also appeared in many other internationally broadcast television documentaries and radio programs, and has worked as a historical consultant for HBO and Company Pictures. He now lives in southern England.

For more information visit: www.thomasasbridge.com

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A good, readable history of The Crusades has escaped me to this point, for whatever reason. I was very excited when Tynerman's God's War was released a few years ago, and quickly became disenchanted when I tried slogging through it and realized what a boringly-written brick it was. Couldn't finish it. Runciman's classic volumes, which have been the definitive essential reading for half a century now, are still valid, entertaining reads but have been long since over-taken by newer evidence and much fresher, more-encompassing interpretations. As a read, they're still great fun. As good history, they're quite biased and lacking today.

So, when I saw a shiny new tome promising a complete revisiting of long-held assumptions, I couldn't resist. Asbridge's chronology is straightforward; starting with a quick survey of Islam's rise and subsequent takeover of the Christian Holy Land, he moves to Europe to set the scene of the medieval papacy and nascent western kingships that would bring about the concept of Crusading. In a nice touch, he continues to revisit the contemporary meanings, definitions and assumptions behind crusading as it developed from an event without even a name ("crusading" was a later appellation) to the currently-understood form. From these basics, he moves us through each of the main five Crusades, deftly describing the expected peoples, places, and battles. He strikes a good balance between talking about the most important figures and key battles versus the less-glamorous but as-important topics such as trade and societal makeup that, while harder to make exciting, are very important when trying to gain a full understanding of the events.

Very crucially, he spends as much time covering the Arab viewpoint as he does the Christian.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Crusades is a fine historical work. It lacks some of the detail of the author's earlier work (The First Crusade) but it also covers a much longer time frame. I really enjoyed the in-depth personal accounts of the historical figures in the earlier book that are somewhat lacking in this work. I also feel that the author doesn't spend enough time on the importance of the Military Orders (Templars and Hospitallers). However the author does spend a great deal of time examining broader cultural issues which more than make up for a certain lack of insight into individual personalities. The author spends a significant amont of time assessing changing viewpoints over historical periods (i.e. does Richard Lionheart deserve to be considered a hero, was Saladin a true believer in jihad or a political opportunist, etc.) I enjoyed the analysis which is thought provoking and well researched. I highly recommend both works.
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Format: Hardcover
First and foremost, The Crusades is a great read. From page one, it pulls you in with a narrative that reads more like a great adventure novel than true history. I for one, did not know much about the Crusades prior to this. As i progressed, I found myself investigating more and more details from other sources to further gain insight into the battles and backstory. That is not to say there are not plenty of details in the book as it is. It is very rich. The way Asbridge divided up each piece of the story really worked to make the journey concise, literate and educational. For a fan of history, The Crusades is as good as it gets.
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Format: Hardcover
In a footnote to the intro, Mr. Asbridge states his intention of writing a fact-based book with careful effort to remove bias. I find Mr. Asbridge's single volume history on the Crusades to be remarkably even-handed. The author did not have any apparent anti-Western Western academic bias nor did he show any apparent Western enculturation bias.

The author paid careful attention to the player's motives. While those who enjoy history as enacted by larger-than-life caricatures may be disappointed, I found the portraits painted to be well-rounded and human. Asbridge did not cynically dismiss the players' professed spiritual motivations nor did he neglect other temporal and political motivations. Great players such as Saladin, Baybars, Frederick II, and Richard the Lion-Hearted rise and fall on their own merits without help from the historian. Motivations of individuals and groups are well-treated and in the context of their actions and contemporary sources.

Another reviewer stated that Mr. Asbridge's writing tended to be self-congratulatory at the expense of other historians. I did not get this. With a stated intent of clearing distortions and myth, Mr. Asbridge does discuss and challenge other perceptions; however, I believe these were not handled arrogantly.

Because this book is more socio-political, I do not believe the military buff will enjoy this book as much as those looking for a clear overview of the Crusades in the Near East. However, for military buffs just discovering the Crusades, this book provides an excellent springboard and context for more detailed reading.

The extensive notes provide an invaluable reference for further reading and exploration, most of which are considered authoritative in their own right. The writing is clear and the narrative flows well. Mr. Asbridge is clearly an authority on the Crusades; I expect to find this book referenced in many future volumes.
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