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A History of the Crusades, Volume 2: The…

A History of the Crusades, Volume 2: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the… (1952)

by Steven Runciman

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He may be the comfy old cardigan of Crusader studies now, but I’ve just read this Vol II in conjunction with Christopher Tyerman over these events, and Sir Steven, humane-minded, joying in the plural cultures that were the Holy Land, was rightly knighted, I say. ( )
  Jakujin | Feb 27, 2015 |
My reactions to reading this book in 1993.

I found the constant rivalry between the Military Order of the Hospitallers and Templars fascinating as well as tales of (particularly the Templars) their treachery and avarice. The Latin Kingdoms of the Crusaders needed the experienced, permanent (as opposed to the temporary lay Crusaders from Europe) body of soldiers the Military Orders represented so they had clout and, especially the Templars, money. (Even the Moslems, generally disgusted by the treachery of the Templars – prisoners from the Military Orders were slaughtered after the disastrous Battle of Hattin – regarded the Templars as trustworthy bankers.) However, the kings of Jerusalem had no control over the Orders who were answerable only to the Pope, and they often sided with a political faction.

I found the general contempt the Order of Assassins was held in to be interesting. As is typical of religious extremists, the Assassins got along much better with the Crusaders than their fellow Moslems. I liked Runciman’s brief bit on life in Outremer which, among other things, emphasized that Outremer’s possession of the coast helped foster rich trade routes with the interior, and both Moslems and Christians tried to some extent to not interrupt this trade despite shifting alliances and internecine war. Runciman also emphasizes just how short of cash the Crusaders usually were despite outward appearances of wealth. That explains, particularly among the Templars, the constant breaking of truces and alliances between the Kingdom of Jerusalem and other Moslems. They were willing to risk war to keep the tribute by Assassins (amongst others) or gamble on getting riches in a raid. There also were a small number of Crusaders for a large area, and their impressive castles were often manned by few troops. The military architecture of which is the only cultural contribution Outremer made to Europe. I liked the story of Saladin besieging a castle during a wedding feast and stopping his bombardment out of consideration for the guests.

Saladin comes off as a remarkable figure of talent, energy, intelligence, and surprising merciful. He was particularly graceful and merciful to the inhabitants of Jerusalem though some of Saladin’s underlings sold the Christian captives from Jerusalem into slavery rather than free them. (In sharp contrast to Crusader treatment of the city when they took it.) Runciman also notes how the fanaticism of the newcomers from Europe disturbed what could have been a much more peaceful Outremer. Many of the rulers from 1100-1187 were born in Outremer and got along moderately well with their Moslem neighbors, saw the wisdom of shifting alliances to preserve a balance of power rather than war, and desired to keep the trade routes open. But this was all alien to the newcomers who simply wanted to take more of the Holy Land from the infidel and not make friends with him or trade with him.
  RandyStafford | Mar 17, 2013 |
1307. A History of the Crusades Volume II The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East 1100-1187, by Steven Runciman (11 Dec 1974) This tells well the sad story of events in the Holy Land from 1100 to 1187, culminating in Saladin's victory on July 4, 1187, at Hattin. Runciman as far as I am concerned is the premier historian of the Crusades. ( )
  Schmerguls | Feb 27, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0521347718, Paperback)

Sir Steven Runciman's three volume A History of the Crusades, one of the great classics of English historical writing, is now being reissued. This volume describes the Frankish states of Outremer from the accession of King Baldwin I to the re-conquest of Jerusalem by Saladin. As Runciman says in his preface, 'The politics of the Moslem world in the early twelfth-century defy straightforward analysis, but they must be understood if we are to understand the establishment of the Crusader states and the later causes of the recovery of Islam ... The main theme in this volume is warfare ... I have followed the example of the old chroniclers, who knew their business; for war was the background to life in Outremer and the hazards of the battlefield often decided its destiny.'

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:00 -0400)

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