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Fighting for the Cross: Crusading to the Holy Land [Hardcover]

Norman Housley
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 Aug 2008
In a series of massive military undertakings that stretched from 1095 to 1291, Christendom's armies won, defended, and lost the sacred sites of the Holy Land. Many books have been written about the Crusades, but until now none has described in detail what is was like to take part in medieval Europe's most ambitious wars. This vividly written book draws on extensive research and on a wealth of surviving contemporary accounts to recreate the full experience of crusading, from the elation of taking up the cross to the difficult adjustments at home when the war was over.Distinguished historian Norman Housley explores the staggering logistical challenges of raising, equipping, and transporting thousands of Christian combatants from Europe to the East, as well as the complications that noncombatant pilgrims presented. He describes the ordinary crusader's prolonged years of difficult military tasks, risk of starvation and disease, trial of religious faith, death of friends, and the spectre of heavy debt or stolen land upon arriving home. Creating an unprecedented sense of immediacy, Housley brings to light the extent of crusaders' sacrifices and the religious commitment that enabled them to endure.

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Fighting for the Cross: Crusading to the Holy Land + The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 356 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (26 Aug 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300118880
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300118889
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 17 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 328,235 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"... vivid and well-organised." -- John France, BBC History Magazine, January 2009

"... will appeal equally to historians and those who visit the Holy Land, whether on tour or in spirit." -- Christopher Smith, Methodist Recorder, 29th January 2009

"Housley ... makes skilful use of all [his] material. His main point ... is made with verve and learning ... [an] excellent book." -- Jonathan Sumption, Literary Review, February 2009

"[A] splendid new book about the Crusades [which] succeeds brilliantly ... [It] also draws on a staggering range of ... sources." -- Jonathan Wright, Catholic Herald, 19th December 2008


"[A] splendid new book about the Crusades [which] succeeds brilliantly ... [It] also draws on a staggering range of ... sources."

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A full and elegant essay 8 Jan 2012
By Benjamin Girth VINE VOICE
I have come across the Crusades tangentially, tripped over their forts on holiday, great battles, and their importance in religious history. These medieval events are often referred to in contemporary commentaries as explanation for what is happening in land cruelly fought over for thousands of years. However this was this is the first comprehensive study I have read.

The Crusades (nine of them) were an undertaking ranging over nearly two hundred years (1095-1291). They were politically and ideologically complicated, vicious, exposing the worst (at times the best) aspects of religious belief, generating huge social changes and staggeringly expensive (adventures in the Middle East have always been costly in money and lives). This is very big history and a compelling story. Dr Housley is a university professor, and states this book was 30 years in the making. You get the complete "who, what, where, when and why" concise and well written. The illustrations, colour plates with many black and white pictures and maps embedded in the text, were excellent.

The Crusades left a great deal of recorded history, not least eyewitness accounts, so we know much about what was an armed pilgrimage and penitential war. It was an adventure and a religious obsession based on superstition, fear and the promise of salvation. Basically it was the product of Papal ambitions, to impose and expand the authority of Rome. On another level it was a psychological phenomenon, manipulated by many for profit and power; Professor Housley explains exactly how the rabble was roused. Taking the Cross (that is making a commitment to go and fight for Christ) left most mortgaged to the hilt but it was a time of financial innovation (tax breaks, loan finance and interest rate exemptions).
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book - and a great read 18 Dec 2009
By bookelephant TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I'm guessing the lack of reviews so far reflects the crusades' reputation for being a bit indigestible? However this is the book which changes that. Don't be put off by previous bad experiences trying to keep track of which crusade happened when - and don't be put off by the reviews calling this book "important" - which I am sure it is; or by the rather stark cover. The really great thing about this book is that it brings together not just the events of the crusades but the whole social context - how different people from different walks of life came to be going on crusade, what their experiences would be - eating and drinking, socialising, the money aspects, the relations with crusaders from different backgrounds, and the enemy. The result? A nuanced picture and somehow, a comprehensible story. The writing is excellent and lively - even laugh out loud funny at points (eg re Innocent III's view "that crusaders thought they were on the medieval eqivalent of an 18-30 holiday"). A thoroughly good read and hugely informative - who could ask for more?
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid introduction to a complicated field 21 April 2009
By A. J. Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Norman Housley has been a major figure in Crusading scholarship for decades, and his reputation for thoroughness and evocative writing is well-deserved. This book is perfect for the undergraduate or lay reader looking for a carefully constructed introduction to the mentality of the Crusades. Professor Housley's interest has often focused on the men and women who participated in the Crusades, and here he attempts to shed light on their emotional responses to the ideas and actualities of crusading. This is a vivid, wide-ranging book that personalizes the various experiences of Western Europeans who marched off to Jerusalem. Even for specialists in the field, this book is a refreshing and human look at what is often examined through battle statistics and contemporary political evocations. Really attuned to the "why" of crusading, Housley explores the various reactions to and notions of Crusade over two hundred years, and asks many fascinating questions along the way.
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