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the battles and the outcome are all well documented and the fact that the crusaders basically applied the standard policy of the age at Jerusalem ( just like Saladin did a few years later) really sheds some ...
on August 4, 2017
While the book starts off in a well balanced manner, shattering the laughable modern myths regarding the "unprovoked" nature of the crusade, the West's so called "backwardness" in the Middle Ages and highlights the fact that the Islamic progress was due largely to partially assimilated cultures, many of which were ultimately destroyed, I feel that it really does abandon its objectivity towards the end.
The first crusade is presented well, the background, the warriors, the journey, the battles and the outcome are all well documented and the fact that the crusaders basically applied the standard policy of the age at Jerusalem ( just like Saladin did a few years later) really sheds some objective light on this fascinating period. The book presents some other little known facts like the admiration of certain Muslim writers towards the way justice was served in a fair manner in the crusader kingdoms, the military superiority of the West alongside the agricultural advancements of the so called "Dark Ages" that ensured that westerners ate better food than any other group of people at that time.
The highlight of the book, ironically, is not the presentation of the crusades but the background and the causes. For some reason, the downright cretinous claims of Voltaire and others who said that Islam was received with enthusiasm in the conquered areas are still popular in the West today. While the Balkan countries, Poland, Hungary still have plenty of reminders of hundreds of years of oppression, raids, child slaves and sex slaves at the hands of the Ottoman Empire, the moronic claims of certain 17th-18th century writers which were living in the most rich and advanced societies in the history of mankind and were surrounded by flourishing arts and sciences but for some reason wanted to ridicule those very societies by raising Islam on a pedestal...these claims still have traction today, and for this reason, books like this one are very healthy.
Towards the end, as mentioned above, the book unfortunately abandons its myth shattering purpose and objective attitude and becomes fully apologetic.
The 4th crusade in particular is presented as some sort of an accident where the crusaders were placed in an impossible situation and, despite the fact that they didn't want to, they 'had' to sack the most advanced and rich city of the time...no mention of the fact the Venetians basically had been waiting for any excuse to raid Constantinople for a long time. The book mentions the low body count but conveniently ignores the fact that it was the greatest robbery of the age if we consider the total amount of loot that was carried away and ended up in Venice and other places. The book also fails to mention that the Church excommunicated a lot of people after this crusade...
No mention of the dubious Northern Crusades or any of the subsequent degenerations of the original idea behind the crusading, the corruption of certain Knight Orders and of the fact that basically that very 4th crusade alongside the Zara fiasco basically ended the age of the knight wars and the beginning of the mercenary age in Europe. This made me drop a few stars off the score...but as mentioned above, it's still a healthy read.