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The Crusades: A History Paperback – June 11, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

Review

““Everything is here: the crusades to the Holy Land, and against the Albigensians, the Moors, the pagans in Eastern Europe, the Turks, and the enemies of the popes. Riley-Smith writes a beautiful, lucid prose, . . . [and his book] is packed with facts and action.”—Choice


““A concise, clearly written synthesis . . . by one of the leading historians of the crusading movement. ”—Robert S. Gottfried, Historian


““A lively and flowing narrative [with] an enormous cast of characters that is not a mere catalog but a history. . . . A remarkable achievement.”—Thomas E. Morrissey, Church History


“If you have been looking for a one-volume survey, you won’t find a better one than this.”


(Christianity Today)

Book Description

Jonathan Riley-Smith here provides a comprehensive history of the Crusades: an account of the theology of violence behind the Crusades, the major Crusades, the experience of crusading, and the crusaders themselves. With a wealth of fascinating detail, Riley-Smith brings to life these stirring expeditions and the politics and personalities behind them. His book will be the standard and authoritative account of the Crusades for years to come.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; 2nd ed. edition (June 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300101287
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300101287
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #214,989 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The previous reviewer (Jarvis) dismisses this book as a text. I beg to disagree. For the serious reader of history this is undoubtedly a useful reference work, but I read the book as someone who dabbles a toe in the military history of different ages. I found this to be an accessible and informative work. It is a history, not a novel, and as a history it delivers a good meaty narrative backed up with in-depth analysis of events. Although it is called a concise history the book is by no means a concise work. It spans a period of hundreds of years of history and examines crusades that I never knew were crusades and some I never knew existed. I hadn't realised that the war in Spain between Christian and Moorish kings had achieved official papal crusade standard, and I was unaware of the crusades that were fought along the German borders throughout the period. I recommend this book to anyone who has a thirst for information on this period, drink deep from this well and be satisfied. This is one of those rare books that crosses the line between textbook and non-fiction.
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Format: Paperback
The previous reviewer is far more interetested in anti-Catholic bigotry than in the current state of historical scholarship on the Crusades. Dr. Riley-Smith's book is up to date while the previous work of Runciman (and others) is considered passe by the professional historian. Unfortunately, people with an axe to grind rarely are interested in the facts when their cherished preconceptions are in jeopardy.
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)
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Format: Paperback
As the back of this book states, this is a very concise account of the history of the crusading movement that occurred from the 12th to the 18th century. Riley-Smith really knows his stuff and his writing style is lucid and the book flows well.
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.
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Format: Paperback
On an impulse I purchased this work by Jonathan Riley-Smith in early 2004. At first, although I found the content interesting and thorough, it did not engage my simple mind at the time which up until that point had been lulled into more of an escapist mode with works of science fiction. However, that was before the release of the popular cinematic event known as, 'The Kingdom of Heaven'. After its viewing I was concerned that the historical content of the feature film may not have been completely accurate. Therefore, I dusted off my copy of this book and began to read it avidly. Within its covers I was able to discover the true events before, during and after the fall of Jerusalem into the hands of Saladin in 1187. I became acquainted with the true characters of the First Crusade and with those that followed after. While the film previously mentioned tends to show bias and even gravely negative in its approach to the Templar knights in particular, the work here refutes any such fanciful history. Riley-Smith is even-handed in his approach to all participants in the many and various crusades showing partiality to none. Further, I appreciated the style with which Dr. Riley-Smith wrote his book. It flows easily so much so that it is fitting for, IMHO, readers aged 13 and older. This is by no means a children's book, however. Far from it in fact. I would encourage anyone with a genuine interest in the facts of the often misunderstood and misrepresented Crusades to acquaint yourself with this, in my opinion, essential work. Within its covers you will find that the initial motivations for the First Crusade centered around the threat of Muslim warriors on the Eastern borders of Christendom and the endangerment of pilgrimage routes to and from the Holy Land.Read more ›
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