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A History of the Crusades: Volume 1 - The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Penguin History): The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem v. 1 Paperback – 28 Mar 1991


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A History of the Crusades: Volume 1 - The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Penguin History): The First Crusade and the Foundation of the Kingdom of Jerusalem v. 1 + A History of the Crusades: Volume 2 - The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East 1100-1187: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East 1100-1187 v. 2 + A History of the Crusades, Vol. 3: The Kingdom of Acre and the Later Crusades
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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (28 Mar 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140137068
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140137064
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 27,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Sir Steven Runciman (1903-2000) was a medieval historian and expert on Byzantium.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 23 Feb 2004
This book is a detailed account of the beginning of the Crusading movement, giving you a well researched and interesting description of the events and characters of the First Crusade, like the infamous Tancred and the quixotic Walter Sans-Avoir.
The first section of the book gives you an overview of the wars between Islam and the Byzantine Empire. It also deals with the origin of pilgrimages, which can be difficult to follow considering the constant flow of events, names and dates. Yet when it comes to describe the First Crusade, Runciman's book becomes an adventure. This (and its two follow-ups) are must reads for anyone interested in the Crusades.
Runciman actually intended this series as a three volume set for other historians and academics, but his prose is so brilliant and lucid it can be easily read by the layman, give or take a few words.

All in all this is definately worth getting, and very rewarding if you stick too it. Highly recommended.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Brian Moore on 21 Oct 2003
Like the other reviewers, I didn't find this entirely painless as, particularly at the beginning, the names and places come thick and fast and can be a little overwhelming. But it was definitely worth persevering with. Runciman's style may be academic but it's a far cry from the 1950's history books most of us were subjected to at school - local colour and asides keep you interested, quite apart from the epic scale of the story he tells. Although I'll probably wait a few months before starting the second volume, I definitely intend to read on.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 May 2009
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Unsurpassable as a history of the crusades. Sir Steven Runciman, possibly one of the greatest historians we have ever seen, learnt to read a huge number of languages - not just Greek plus Latin and its later derivatives, but also Arabic, Syriac, Hebrew, Turkish, Persian, Bulgarian, Russian, Armenian, Georgian and probably others too - we may never see his like again. This wide ranging linguistic skill enabled him to go straight to the original sources in his research. For this reason, it's unfair and totally unwarranted, as at least one reviewer here has done, to accuse Runciman of displaying a biased viewpoint from the Christian side only.

In the modern age, political correctness demands that the Christian side must always be seen as murderous bloodthirsty savages to a man whilst the Muslims must be seen as invariably cultured and peaceful and unable to do wrong. In a pre-PC age Runciman is quite objective in his treatment of all sides - no-one was incapable of great atrocities, it was the nature of the age, even if the Franks were worse. His sympathies however, as a Byzantinist and admirer of Byzantine culture, do lean towards the Byzantines; he sees the era as being in effect the last act in the long history of barbarian invasions of the Roman empire - the uncouth destructive barbarian Frankish hordes overrunning the cultured Byzantium and the Middle East, the nadir being the Crusaders' capture of Constantinople in 1204.

Certainly it's hard going, but such a thoroughly researched work covers the full complexities of the history of a period often envisaged simplistically in the popular imagination as one of Christian versus Muslim, but which is more correctly one of a constantly shifting power game of rivalries and alliances - by turns Frank against Frank, Frank against Norman, Norman against Byzantine, Frank against Byzantine, Byzantine against Turk, Turk against Arab, Arab against Arab, Sunni against Shia, Catholic against Orthodox and so on.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Meph on 18 Dec 2007
First off, it is important to note that Runciman's work (now over 50 years old) has by and large been superseded by more recent scholarship - in particular that of Jonathan Riley-Smith. Runciman views the Crusades as the last of the 'Barbarian Invasions' and his work often reads more like a threnody for the declining Byzantine Empire than a self-consciously 'objective' account of events. For a more up-to-date (though drier) general history, you would be better off reading Christopher Tyerman's new 'God's War.'

However, it is still more than possible to read and enjoy 'A History of the Crusades' for what it is - an epic account of three hundred years of history, and an energetic demolition of the view (sadly still prevalent in some circles) that the Crusades were bold and heroic, or somehow 'defensive' in nature. Although some of the analytical material is somewhat dated, the book is eminently readable and exciting, and is in my opinion still the best general introduction to the subject. Enormously influential in its day and still of relevance.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 27 July 2001
As an earlier reviewer has noted, this is a book essentially intended for genuine historians, and is thus a little dry for interested laymen like myself. However, if you're willing to make the effort, what you get is definitely worthwhile. The first part of the book is an attempt to summarise the road to the crusades from the early history of Europe and the Middle East and the founding of Islam. Whilst this is interesting, it is also, of necessity, somewhat rushed, which is the book's major weakness. Thereafter, we are treated to a meticulously sourced and detailed history that occasionally gets a little arch, but isn't afraid to make a few speculations about the character and state of mind of the various protagonists. A difficult and academic read, then, but if you're interested in the Crusades, this classic should be a first port of call.
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