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The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land by…

The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land (2010)

by Thomas Asbridge

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For over a thousand years inter-religious strife has been focused on the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. Jerusalem is a holy place for the three Abrahamic religions and therefore is a jewel fought over. Conquered by Islamic forces in the 7th century, Christian pilgrims were still able to access the holy places but by the 11th century the papacy felt that Jerusalem should be rules by Christians. Thus began two centuries of warfare for possession of the Holy Land involving the elite of the European nobility and a succession of Muslim rulers.

This is a superb book, meticulously researched and full of detail. What is really important about this book is the fact that it offers a balanced view of the times. Most books focus solely on the 'Franks' but Asbridge also considers the muslim situation in depth, neither side was truly focused and both were riven by issues related to leadership. This aspect gives a depth to the history which is refreshing. Asbridge also expands the view to consider the hijacking of the word 'crusade' in modern times. This is a definitive history of a relatively short but violent series of encounters. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
One of the most believable volumes on the subject I have ever read. Mr. Asbridge paints a believable picture and allows the reader to deduce the situation and make their own judgment. ( )
  Hymlock | May 11, 2017 |
"The Crusades" by Thomas Ashbridge is an excellent, comprehensive look at this unusual time and place in history. Ashbridge covers all the major events in the Levant, as well as related political concerns in the Islamic world and recruitment for the crusades in Western Europe. He describes medieval warfare and siege craft well, so you get a sense of the experiences and challenges faced by both sides. Ashbridge is very fair- he gives roughly equal time to the Western and Islamic perspectives and avoids making judgments about one side or the other being the "good guys" or "bad guys." The book finishes with a very short discussion of how memories of the crusades have shaped history, even up to the present day. It is engaging, held my attention, and was easy to read. It I recommend "The Crusades" to anyone who wants a detailed, insightful, and enjoyable overview of the events and people of the period. ( )
  jrissman | Feb 21, 2016 |
In a footnote to the intro, Mr. Asbridge states his intention of writing a fact-based book with careful effort to remove bias. I find Mr. Asbridge's single volume history on the Crusades to be remarkably even-handed. The author did not have any apparent anti-Western Western academic bias nor did he show any apparent Western enculturation bias.

The author paid careful attention to the player's motives. While those who enjoy history as enacted by larger-than-life caricatures may be disappointed, I found the portraits painted to be well-rounded and human. Asbridge did not cynically dismiss the players' professed spiritual motivations nor did he neglect other temporal and political motivations. Great players such as Saladin, Baybars, Frederick II, and Richard the Lion-Hearted rise and fall on their own merits without help from the historian. Motivations of individuals and groups are well-treated and in the context of their actions and contemporary sources.

Another reviewer stated that Mr. Asbridge's writing tended to be self-congratulatory at the expense of other historians. I did not get this. With a stated intent of clearing distortions and myth, Mr. Asbridge does discuss and challenge other perceptions; however, I believe these were not handled arrogantly.

Because this book is more socio-political, I do not believe the military buff will enjoy this book as much as those looking for a clear overview of the Crusades in the Near East. However, for military buffs just discovering the Crusades, this book provides an excellent springboard and context for more detailed reading.

The extensive notes provide an invaluable reference for further reading and exploration, most of which are considered authoritative in their own right. The writing is clear and the narrative flows well. Mr. Asbridge is clearly an authority on the Crusades; I expect to find this book referenced in many future volumes. ( )
1 vote Hae-Yu | Apr 28, 2015 |
Excellent survey of the Crusades with a very acceptable
balance between academic rigour and accessible story
telling. ( )
1 vote captbirdseye | Feb 4, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060787287, Hardcover)

Released to coincide with a major BBC TV documentary series on the crusades presented by the author. In the eleventh century, a vast Christian army, summoned to holy war by the pope, rampaged through the Muslim world of the eastern Mediterranean, seizing possession of Jerusalem, a city revered by both faiths. Over the two hundred years that followed this First Crusade, Islam and the West fought for dominion of the Holy Land, clashing in a succession of chillingly brutal wars, both firm in the belief that they were at God's work. For the first time, this book tells the story of this epic struggle from the perspective of both Christians and Muslims, reconstructing the experiences and attitudes of those on either side of the conflict. Mixing pulsing narrative and piercing insight, it exposes the full horror, passion and barbaric grandeur of the crusading era. One of the world's foremost authorities on the subject, Thomas Asbridge offers a vivid and penetrating history of the crusades, setting a new standard for modern scholarship. Drawing upon painstaking original research and an intimate knowledge of the Near East, he uncovers what drove Muslims and Christians alike to embrace the ideals of jihad and crusade, revealing how these holy wars reshaped the medieval world and why they continue to echo in human memory to this day.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:16 -0400)

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Drawing on painstaking original research and an intimate knowledge of the Near East, Thomas Asbridge uncovers what drove Muslims and Christians alike to embrace the ideals of "jihad" and crusade, revealing how these holy wars reshaped the medieval world and why they continue to influence events today.… (more)

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