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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades Paperback – May 24, 2001
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In 1095 Pope Urban II granted absolutions to whomever would reclaim the Holy Land for Christendom. With that assurance began two centuries of Crusades, and the story, in contemporary chronicles, artwork, and castellated ruins, is well treated in this interpretation of the movement to take up the cross. The subject has stirred from historiographical dormancy, says editor Riley-Smith, who ably introduces the definitional questions--What is a Crusade? Who became a Crusader?--and then turns the chapters over to a dozen specialists. They analyze in detail the complex religious, economic, and military aspects, emphasizing the immediate instigation of one Crusade or another--often a Muslim counter-Crusade like Saladin's recapture of Jerusalem in 1187--while reiterating the profound piety and concern for salvation on which the whole process rested. It seems an odd combination of compassion and conquest, aptly expressed in knightly orders such as Hospitallers or the Teutonic Order, so elusive to the modern sensibility. These historians, though, dissolve that psychological barrier, interpreting what impelled the pilgrims, the Muslim reaction, and the political course of holy conflict up through the fall of the last Crusader polity--Malta--in 1798. Gilbert Taylor --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Fascinating...a comprehensive history of the wars."--History Today
"In 1095, Pope Urban II granted absolutions to whomever would reclaim the Holy Land for Christendom. With that assurance began two centuries of Crusades, and the story...is well treated in this interpretation of the movement to take up the cross."--Booklist
"In a series of finely crafted and admirably succinct essays, the contributors unravel a number of important medieval political and religious themes. This comprehensive approach adds a great deal to the book's interest and presents some of the best insights of modern Crusading scholarship....Excellent."--Tablet
"The great merit of Professor Riley-Smith's book is to follow the story down to the present day."--Church Times
"In 1095 Pope Urban II granted absolutions to whomever would reclaim the Holy Land for Christendom. With that assurance began two centuries of Crusades, and the story, in contemporary chronicles, artwork, and castellated ruins, is well treated in this interpretation of the movement to take up the cross."--Booklist
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In many stories, the reader only sees the top 10% of the iceberg. The other 90% remains beneath the surface. Similarly, many histories about the Crusades only present the popular narrative. These essays represent (a portion of) the other 90%.
For a person just beginning, this book is most likely not for you. Asbridge or Runciman would be better starting points. It would be like a Tolkien reader starting in the Appendices, the Unfinished Tales, and Histories of Middle Earth before actually reading the trilogy itself. As long as the prospective reader understands what this book is about, they will be happy with it.
Those doing in-depth studies about who participated, why, and how - the financing, the motivations, the social consequences on the families and local and regional economies (both on the home front and front lines), the impact on social classes, how they transformed Europe and the ME, the military orders - would do well to look here. There are discussions about how the crusades have been reflected over time by historians, literature, art, and architecture.
While each essay has a clearly distinct topic written by a distinct author, the essays are cohesive and show an awareness of each other, perhaps due to excellent editing by Riley-Smith. Some essays are more interesting than others, but I believe each is equally important to a more complete understanding of the crusades.
The paper quality is good, the illustrations superb, and I found no typos or odd grammar throughout the text.
One thing I found particularly interesting was the illustration of Richard the Lionheart's effigy. Just as Yosemite gives set designers THE image of paradise and Sedona and Monument Valley are THE images of the Wild West, that effigy is THE stereotypical image of a vibrant medieval king from Errol Flynn movies to Shrek.
Most recent customer reviews
What I liked about The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades was it's very 'neat' look at history.Read more