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The First Crusade: A New History [Paperback]

Thomas Asbridge
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 April 2005
Nine hundred years ago the Pope initiated one of the most controversial episodes in Christian history by stating that God wanted European knights to wage a fierce and bloody war against Islam and recapture Jerusalem. Thus was the First Crusade born. Its story is compelling, capable of inspiring awe through tales of bold adventure and revulsion through excesses of violence and barbarity, while at the same time providing us with significant insights into medieval society, morality and mentality. Tom Asbridge re-creates this fascinating period of history in a stunning narrative. Compelling and enlightening in equal measure, and drawing on new research which has radically remoulded our understanding of the movement, THE FIRST CRUSADE is a major work by an outstanding young historian.

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The First Crusade: A New History + The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land + Holy Warriors: A Modern History of the Crusades
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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; New edition edition (4 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743220846
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743220842
  • Product Dimensions: 2.7 x 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 74,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Thomas Asbridge is Reader in Medieval History at Queen Mary, University of London, and the author of 'The First Crusade: A New History' and 'The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land'. He studied for a BA in Ancient and Medieval History at Cardiff University, and then gained his PhD in Medieval History at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Thomas has written and presented a landmark three-part documentary series The Crusades for BBC Two, filmed on location across the Near East and Europe. He also developed and presented the documentary 'The Crusader's Lost Fort' for BBC2's Timewatch strand and has appeared in many other internationally broadcast television documentaries and radio programmes. He has worked as a historical consultant for HBO and Company Pictures.

Product Description


'A nuanced and sophisticated analysis . . . Exhilarating' -- SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

'A taut, clear and exciting narrative, which also manages to convey the best of modern Crusader scholarship' -- GUARDIAN


'The book is enthralling' -- Allan Massie, LITERARY REVIEW

About the Author

Thomas Asbridge is Lecturer in Early Medieval History at Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London. He is an acknowledged expert on the history of the crusades and the author of several books on the subject, although this is his first for a general audience.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Weathered by a thousand years of human history, Christian attitudes to violence had undergone an incremental but drastic transformation. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 24 April 2004
By A Customer
A first class example of a professional historian writing for theintelligent general reader. The book wears its learning lightly butAsbridge is obviously the master of his subject, and the book reallybenefits from the fact that the author has himself covered a lot of thecrusade route on foot. The sieges and battles are well described but thereal achievement here is bringing the characters to life and explaininghow this amazing event set the tone for so much of what informs our worldtoday. Recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The First Crusade 7 April 2013
By Keen Reader TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've read a lot of books on the various Crusades, and their aspects, including Steven Runciman's magisterial volumes, and works by Jonathan Riley-Smith, Hans Eberhard Mayer, Jonathan Phillips and many others. I'd have to say that I think that all writing on aspects of the Crusades is inclined to be fairly subjective, based on the views and theories that the writer wishes to highlight in their writing. So, any one book on the Crusades, or on any one Crusade, is not likely to be `definitive' for every reader. Rather, it is the reader's right to read as many books on a Crusade as they can find, based on all aspects (Islam, Christian, societal, economic, political, religious) and weigh up the evidence for themselves, much as the authors of those books have done.

This book has clearly polarised opinion, as books on the Crusades often do. I approached it from the perspective that it would offer a lively narrative on the First Crusade, with some interpretation of the events. Not all of these would I agree with, nor should I expect to. Thomas Asbridge is Senior Lecturer in Early Medieval History at Queen Mary, University of London, and has specialised in the Crusades and their associated territories, including a book on the creation of the Principality of Antioch. This gives him an authoritative ability to offer his own views on the source material and interpretations of the First Crusade, and this book offers that synthesis.

I'm extremely impressed with the way that the author has `cut to the chase' on some very complex matters, some of which would fill books all on their own, such as what constitutes a just war, what Pope Urban's intentions were, what Alexius Comnenus was intending to achieve, what motivated crusaders (military and non-military) and many more issues.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb new book 5 Jun 2004
By Dee Dee
Avarice. Prejudice. Betrayal. Murder. The spirit of the First Crusade often appears as an antidote to modern Christian values. The author correctly identifies how the historical antagonism between Islamic and Western Worlds owes much to the remarkable band of opportunists who crossed into Byzantium nine hundred years ago. Certainly, you would not have wanted to be an Emir in their path.
It is clear that the author has a passionate appreciation of this remarkable story, resulting in a book that now sits on my shelves alongside Meyer's classic crusade history. The book is well illustrated with relevant pictures and photographs. Those showing Antioch today are particularly worthwhile.
I had forgotten how many bizarre and colourful individuals contributed to this remarkable and savage endeavour. The various sub-plots and motives are carefully presented against a political and religious context that is presented with great clarity. The subsequent combination of fanaticism and hypocrisy results in a compelling narrative, rich in both battle and sometimes comedy. Who could not fail to be amused by the likes of Peter Bartholemew?
I highly recommend this excellent book, which is a superb addition to what is currently available in this area.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readable and gripping 18 Dec 2006
A tremendously readable account of a period of history about which I knew little beforehand. The author's lifelong love of his subject is evident and he is able to take an objective approach, seeing the Crusade neither as a wholly religiously motivated venture, nor dismissing it as simply an anti-Muslim onslaught motivated by greed. He also covers the massacres of Jews as the Crusaders, especially the People's Crusade, crossed Europe - perhaps an aspect of the Crusade less well known.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Most people have an idea of the crusades that will be changed by this book. This first crusade was unlike the later crusades that give us our visions of noble ideals and heroic knights. It's a great insight into christianity and the minds of the people at the time and what spurred tens of thousands of them into making the gruelling and four year long journey to Jerusalem. As well as an insight into the time, it gives an insight into Christian / Muslim relationships - and how they were changed by the crusades.

It is a really accessible account - enough information to be really thought provoking and interesting, not so much that you get swamped with names and dates. This is an era of history that I knew little of, and how glad I am that I read this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars My favourite book 13 April 2014
By gary
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As a knight Templar in jersey and living history. Person you need to read this book as amazing reference book gary
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant scholarship but read it for the story 20 April 2013
Like a lot of men my age, I am a big fan of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It was only as I grew older that I realised quite a lot of it doesn't exaggerate the strangeness of the medievals, rather it's surprisingly accurate. Perhaps even understated. Thus, in 1095, amongst the various groups of pilgrim crusaders responding to Pope Urban II's call to reclaim Jerusalem, was one reputed to be led by a divinely-inspired goose. And when Peter the Hermit, who also preached the crusade, was mobbed by fans looking for relics, they tore hair from his donkey and went away satisfied. And among the most sacred official relics the crusader-knights encountered when they reached Constantinople were "at least two heads of John the Baptist".

What Asbridge's excellent book does is remind us of how alien the medieval period now is. There is no getting back there, and there is no assessment we can make of the crusaders that is complex enough to do them justice: perhaps the best we can do is say they were simply pious monsters. According to the eighteenth century philosopher, David Hume, the crusades were "the most signal and most durable monument of human folly that has ever appeared in any age or nation". On every page of this book, there is a surprise. And of course, it's a story in which the protagonists achieve their goal: against unbelievable odds, they conquer Jerusalem (and then kill everyone inside in a monumental bloodbath).

A lot of this used to make sense. It used to be assumed that the crusaders were generally second sons looking for booty. Asbridge points out that hardly any historians think this any more. Rather, most crusaders were motivated by high idealism and fear of hellfire.

Which is enough to drive you into the arms of Richard Dawkins.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The First Crusade Examined
Asbridge is a well read historian and it shows in his book The First Crusade. While I found his analysis well explained and thorough, I did think his detail of the actual events... Read more
Published 16 months ago by JH
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
I've already read Dr Asbridge's excellent work on the history of the crusades, and thought I would follow it up with this book. I am pleased to say the excellent work continues. Read more
Published on 23 Mar 2012 by Mrs. TK Ellis
4.0 out of 5 stars the first crusade
A wonderful book. Very interesting and full of drama and fact, it gives the reader an excelent understanding of life in that time. I will be reading more of Asbridge`s books.
Published on 9 Jan 2012 by zack
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Convincing Read
I don't pretend to be an expert on the Crusades. Reading about and researching them is more of a hobby than anything else. Read more
Published on 8 July 2011 by Angus Blakey
5.0 out of 5 stars "the cornerstone of this system of belief [medieval Christianity] was...
This is a thoroughly engaging book, perfectly pitched for readers passionate about history, but who aren't necessarily pursuing a PhD. Read more
Published on 31 Jan 2011 by Sebastian Palmer
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Amazing read, very enlightening.

As for the critics, Asbridge does refer to alleged Muslim aggression that prompted retaliation. Read more
Published on 27 Jan 2011 by Robert Kimber
5.0 out of 5 stars reads just like a novel
if you are interested in reading about the first crusade weather your a student of history or just someone with passing interest then i can't recommend this book enough... Read more
Published on 13 July 2010 by john
1.0 out of 5 stars The First Crusade: A New History
As a history buff for some fifty years, I am well aware of how selective ommission and tactful use of minor incidents by a clever author, can alter the perception given of any... Read more
Published on 23 Mar 2010 by C. W. Bradbury
5.0 out of 5 stars Christianity's Holy War
This book by medieval scholar Thomas Ashbridge's is an attempt at a history of the First Crusade (1095-99) that draws on new developments in scholarship to create a narrative that... Read more
Published on 18 Mar 2010 by S Wood
5.0 out of 5 stars Deus Vult!
I knew little about the crusades and was looking for a good over view of the 1st one. If you're not a historical anorak like myself and want a good book on the crusade in a... Read more
Published on 8 Mar 2010 by Jacks
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