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The Crusades: Iron Men and Saints Hardcover – 1930
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In this volume is told the story of the first crusaders. It begins with their setting out, and it ends with the death of the last survivor. Eight hundred and thirty-five years have passed since then, and the lines of these men are known to us only by the chronicles of their days. Several of these chronicles were written by men who marched with the crusaders, by two chaplains and an unknown soldier. Two other narratives were finished in Beyond the Sea after the march, and we have accounts of others who saw the crusaders pass, a princess of Byzantium, an Armenian patriarch. There is also the testimony of Arab travelers and historians of the period, and the notes of Genoese sea traders, and the saga of a Norse king. Upon these original chronicles the story in this book is based. It does not deal with the legends that grew up after the crusades. It is not history rewritten. It is the story of a dozen men, most of them leaders, who started out on that long journey-what they saw on the road, and what they did, and what befell them at the Sepulcher of Christ.
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Because of the easy to read format as written by Harold Lamb, these two books could be read by almost anyone who have any interest on the subject. Its a great introduction material and easy to digest information would be welcome by many. Not only that, it tells a great story in an energic and entertaining way.
I was told and agreed that these two books compared favorably with Thomas Costain's four books series on English Plantagenat Kings. If you enjoyed Costain's works, you will definitely enjoyed Harold Lamb. They both writes in that style that make history into a story. Lamb would put into some fictional liners to advanced the story and takes legends into facts. But its a great way to start into the history of the Crusades and even if some of the modern works (you might read later on) might straighten out the details into proper perception, these two books helps in providing the background material which was so easily read and understood.
Excellent starter books, thick but very readable!!
Lamb wrote military history engagingly, almost like it was historical fiction. Most of his other historical works were biographies of great generals -- from Hannibal to Alexander to Genghis Khan. As a youth, I read as many of his books as I could find until I hit upon his biography of Alexander the Great. I was sorely disappointed. It was unabashedly historical fiction. This caused me to doubt the historicity of his other works until I read Steven Runciman's three volume work on the Crusades.
Comparing Runciman to Lamb reassured me of "Iron Men's" basic historical merit. It is fairly accurate and extremely well told. Lamb starts with the turn of the millenium and moves to the Pope's preaching a crusade. He describes the crusade of Peter the Hermit, and then gives an account of the First Crusade.
How on earth these naive, strategically clueless men-at-arms were able to wrest Jerusalem from Islamic control is beyond me. They had only three things going for them -- Religious zeal, superb fighting ability, and excellent armor.