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The Crusades: A History Paperback – June 11, 2005
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Dr. Riley-Smith's book covers not only the medieval Crusades but also other religious wars in the later historic times. He demonstrates the complex motivations of the major figures in these various conflicts and shows that their primary concern had been religious, not economic or imperialistic. There is no "cover up" of some of the darker aspects of the Crusades, but Riley-Smith has a better understanding of the 'sitz im leben' of the Medieval world than many previous writers on this subject. Dr. Riley Smith is careful not to judge people from another time by modern standards. He dispels a number of myths that men like Runciman have unfortunately perpetuated.
This is an excellent review book for the general topic of religious wars since the Middle Ages. For more information, see these books:
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades
The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (Middle Ages Series)
The First Crusaders, 1095-1131
What Were the Crusades? (Forthcoming)
The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 4, c. 1024 - c. 1198, Part 1 (Forthcoming)
This is somewhat of a survey book, in that the reader gets a good overview of the Crusades. The text goes beyond a survey however, in that there are vast amounts of names, places and dates. I read this book for a class on this topic, and I had some problems with the amount of minutiae that Riley-Smith included in this book. I'm just starting to learn about this topic; so obscure names are tough to slog through. What saves the book is that it is still possible to come away with a good understanding of the general themes of the text. I was amazed at the number of crusading campaigns that were undertaken, and not just in Palestine. There were movements in the Baltic, in Germany, and in North Africa. The attempts by the Spaniards to get the Moors out of Spain was considered a crusade, as was attempts to put down heresies against the Catholic Church in France. Eventually, the Church saw heresy as more of a threat against Christianity than the Muslim menace in the East. It is also interesting to see how the Church escalated the promises of indulgences to get people to go on crusade. I wasn't too happy about the author's tendency to skip about and play loose with his timeline. It made for some fairly confusing reading.
A tough book for a beginner, but it does have moments of brilliance. It probably is a good starting point for this topic, but since it is the first book I've read on the topic, I'm guessing on this point. Informative.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Riley-Smith is a Cambridge scholar who has focused almost solely on the Crusades, and written over a dozen works on the topic. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Nathan Keen
This book is really weird. It is really well written, the way only a British professor can write. Yet there is no life in it. Read morePublished 6 months ago by MechPebbles
As always j Riley-Smith delivers the delicious facts of a fascinating epic in human history. Enjoy!
The Crusades: A History, by Jonathan Riley-Smith, is a thoughtful, well-articulated, broadly conceived and highly informative account of the crusading movement. Read morePublished 20 months ago by SockPuppet
The person who wrote the review and said this is very 'encyclopedic' is right on. Tough read if you're a newbie to the history of the Crusades. Read morePublished 23 months ago by UpDownAllAround