Top positive review
22 people found this helpful
A great read, if you want to learn something about the crusades and be thoroughly entertained while doing so....
on January 16, 2012
This is a superb, utterly entertaining, thought-provoking, at times (rightly) disturbing, and thoroughly illuminating account of the First Crusade. It is written by an eminent historian, who has gone back to the primary sources and re-narrated the events of 1095 to 1099, when something on the order of 100,000 Christians marched across Europe, through Byzantium, Anatolia, and down to Palestine to retake the holy city of Jerusalem from Muslim control. Though eminently scholarly, it is pitched to a non-academic audience. Rubenstein tells a wonderful story and, although specialists will be able to identify his arguments and his engagement with historiographical disputes, his narrative is free of the kind of inside-baseball argumentation that can sometimes muddy the overall picture. And for those of us who already knew the story going in, the book shares wonderful individual interpretive insights (see for instance the story of the nun who sought pardon after having married a Muslim, pp. 114-115), as well as a vast number of large-scale reinterpretations. Among these are the solid focus on the importance of the crusaders' own apocalyptic thinking, the relative evaluation of the types of violence the crusaders deployed, and the competing visions of crusade ideology that animated the events of, especially, 1098 and 1099. This is a masterpiece.