I've always been fascinating by the history of the Crusades - if only because the reverberations of what happened so many hundreds of years ago is still so terribly relevant to the world today. The impact of the Crusades on the East/West, Muslim/Christian divide is impossible to overstate: the metaphor of a 'crusade' is used today in everything from politics to entertainment; the Muslim concept of 'holy war', jihad is enshrined in the very core of the religion, and the arguments and political and physical strife over Jerusalem continues to this very day.
In this book Phillips charts the narrative history of the Crusades, from the first Crusade' successful recapture of 1099 to the final collapse of the Levant states in 1291, as well as the crusades declared against the Cathars in southern France and the pagan states in the Baltic, and the political and military wrangling over Constantinople. He also looks into the lingering legacy of the crusade as a concept, its place and use in today's society and the impact the word is, George Bush's use of the term after 9/11, for example.
It's a very good book, and it manages to make clear what was often an incredibly tangled and complicated era, with competing monarchs, military orders, Outremer nobles, sultans and monks all adding to the complications. I would have possibly liked a little more about the role and history of the military orders such as the Knights Templars, Knights Hospitaller and the Teutonic Knights, as their involvement in many cases was far more than just military and they placed an enormous role in the development of Outremer. But as this after all a quite concise exploration about several hundred years of immensely convoluted history, that omission is understandable.