- 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 (301 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #822,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land Hardcover – March 9, 2010
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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))
Top Customer Reviews
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. He also properly gives notice to the fact that, while western sources are fairly voluminous by the standards of the era, the Crusades just didn't have a major impact on the Muslim world at the time, and therefore sources from the Muslim POV are much less available. That said, he does an admirable job of situating the reader as best he can in the Muslim frame of mind during each crusade, giving admirable detail on outside pressures that might've existed, any internal dynastic or civil events that had bearing on their interactions with the Crusaders... other histories I've read of this era often fall flat in this particular regard.
He closes with an excellent overview of how the Crusades have themselves been viewed throughout history, both in the West and in the Muslim World; this may have been my favorite part of the book as it's not a topic I've ever seen covered before, much less so well.
The writing style is nice and lively as well. It reads almost like a strong historical fiction narrative, a testament not only to the author's skill but to the inherent drama of the period.
BOTTOM LINE: This will be my only answer for anyone asking for a recommendation on the period for probably years to come.
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.