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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holy men at war
Part of the continuing fascination with the Crusades is due to the belief that we are still fighting them, that they precipitated a Christian/Islamic conflict in which we are still caught up. Truth tends to be much more complex and multi-layered than myth, which is indeed why we prefer the latter. But if you would like to get at the former, Tyerman's book is a good...
Published on 19 Aug 2007 by Peter Reeve

versus
39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars God help us all
I'm a great fan of the "very short introduction" series, published in a nice pocketable format and covering a huge range of topics. But editor and author must take heavy blame for this impenetrable monstrosity.

As pointed out by a previous reviewer, this book was written originally for a knowledgeable audience and has been simply rebranded as an "introduction"...
Published on 3 Oct 2008 by A. Naish


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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars God help us all, 3 Oct 2008
By 
A. Naish - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I'm a great fan of the "very short introduction" series, published in a nice pocketable format and covering a huge range of topics. But editor and author must take heavy blame for this impenetrable monstrosity.

As pointed out by a previous reviewer, this book was written originally for a knowledgeable audience and has been simply rebranded as an "introduction". It isn't. Not a bit of it. Tyerman races through the events of the crusades and then attempts a long and excessively detailed analysis of their genesis and impact.

I consider this rebranding act pretty poor form on the part of OUP. But looking at the text, one starts to wonder who could have found even that original work an enjoyable read. The sentences are interminable and full of incongruous and utterly preposterous metaphors. I've plucked a (believe it or not) representative sentence from Tyerman's labyrinthine prose.

"Although the rulers' rhetoric spoke differently, with popes, politicians, and chroniclers presenting a particular frontier myth of heroic conquest and battle to justify the Franks' presence and excite Western support, Outremer society, while sustained by this cohesive ideology of 'exiles' for the faith, reflected a far more humdrum diversity of experience than such crude caricatures allow."

Well thanks for clearing that up Chris.

Tyerman is writing this as a work of high literature in itself and it is writing to be ashamed of. Academic or not, and I was till recently an academic myself, the purpose of writing for others must be to explain and to elucidate. When writers resort to pretentious obfuscation one is drawn only to the conclusion there simply isn't very much to explain.

I won't give up on the v.s.i. series since I've had plenty of good experiences as well (the first world war introduction in particular is excellent). But I must register my strongest condemnation for this title, for its author (I feel quite sorry for his students in Oxford), and for the feeble work of its editors at OUP. Avoid at all costs!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holy men at war, 19 Aug 2007
By 
Peter Reeve (Thousand Oaks, CA USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Part of the continuing fascination with the Crusades is due to the belief that we are still fighting them, that they precipitated a Christian/Islamic conflict in which we are still caught up. Truth tends to be much more complex and multi-layered than myth, which is indeed why we prefer the latter. But if you would like to get at the former, Tyerman's book is a good place to start. The most important lessons are to do with scope and context. The Crusades were much more than a series of military expeditions by Europeans to the Holy Land, they lasted for far longer than the two centuries we usually credit them with, and the wars between Christian and Islamic nations had older and deeper roots. Nor are their consequences widely understood. As this book makes clear, the Crusades had far more impact on Europe, and far less on the Near East, than is usually thought.

This Very Short Introduction is actually a reprint of Tyerman's hardback Fighting for Christendom (used, cheap copies of which, at the time of writing this review, are still available on Amazon, so you might want to check that out). One consequence is that, at over 150 pages, it's longer than most in the series. Also, I think they must have simply shrunk the illustrations to fit on the page, so that you need a magnifying glass to read some of the maps.

The early chapters give an excellent overview of the subject. The later chapters, examining the impact and significance of the Crusades, and being therefore more interpretive, are somewhat heavy going at times. The author's style is good, but may be slightly too academic for some readers. And he is occasionally prone to colourful moral judgments, such as when he talks of Himmler's 'historically illiterate ghouls' relying on 'rancid imagination'. I may well share this view, but I will arrive at it myself, thank you very much.

This remains an excellent introduction to a hugely important subject, and is a worthy addition to the series.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good if overly-academic, 31 May 2007
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This review is from: The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Tyerman's The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction was not, in fact written to be a very short introduction, and was first prublished as "Fighting for Christendom" in 2004. This is where the problem seems to lie. Repackaged as a VSI, it attracts new and general readers who expect it to be what it says on the cover. They then have to battle with this overly-academic text. I am sure this book is perfectly brillant in itself, but it doesn't really work as a very short introduction. The writer asumes, fairly enough as it seems he didn't know it would become a VSI, a good knowledge of medevial history, academic terms and world geography. This clearly alienates some, like me, who thought it would be a much simpler read as the title suggests: easing you in, rather than jumping in head first.

However, the books is still actually really quite good. Speaking as someone who knows next to nothing about medevial history and is not familar with every academic term under the sun, the book was still very informative and interesting. There is no doubt if you are like me you will sometimes have to battle with paragraphs to grasp meaning, but somehow things did fall into place. Tyerman is clearly an expert who makes some very intriguing points in historography, seeking to dispell misconceptions, as a result of what must be extensive research and a genuine interest for the topic. Let's put it this way: criticism aside, I can't deny I enjoyed reading it.

Difficult, not exactly a very short introduction, but most definitely good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does exactly what it says on the cover!, 24 July 2010
This review is from: The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I am starting a moudle at uni on the crusades and wanted to get some background on the subject before starting in depth study.
It provides all of the kind of information in short form for the main issues surrouding the whole topic of the crusades: the motivation, events leading to the first crusade and subsequent crusades, the dating and numbering of the crusades, and the legacy of crusading in the middle east, and more besides.
The language is clear and concise, and gives a good feel for what the crusades were all about.
I have read many books in this series and have found all of them to be excellent. This one gives the right amount of basic information that lays the foundation for the further study.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An interminable Introduction, 7 July 2008
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This review is from: The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I purchased this title expecting, as it says on the cover, a short introduction to the crusades; an overview of the wars with possibly some academic insight into their principal causes, after effects and enduring legacy.

Instead Tyerman, spends one chapter giving an "A Ridiculously short introduction" to the crusades. The rest of the book is both disjointed and lacks flow. Although the introduction is Academic, it is badly written with long laborious sentences often describing the most trivial of events. Considering that the target audience are far from being experts on the subject but rather casual readers seeking either (1) Knowledge of a subject which they know little (2) An introduction into a subject on which they want to learn more (3) A refresher on a subject which they have studied in the past, this book is the complete opposite of the entertaining, factual account of the crusades, sought by these readers.

I am possible being slightly harsh in my rating. However the fact that I took a whole month to struggle through a "very short introduction", to me, defeats the purpose of this book. Not only this, but I also felt like putting it in the toaster every time I read 5 pages of it!!
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars heavy going!, 21 Feb 2007
By 
king los "king_los" (nowhere, the midlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
this is not what i expected from an 'introduction' to the crusades, and i'm not exactly sure who its written for.

firstly, there is the content. i would expect an 'introduction' to provide an interesting overview to the crusades, marked with a few fascinating insights and investigations into the events and personalities involved. and maybe a few entertaining anecdotes to bring it all to life? instead, it is a lightning fast, skimping overview of the actual crusades (approximately 10 pages) followed by a long, labourious dissection of the historiography of the holy wars which occupies the remaining 90% of the book. secondly, there is the writing; long sentances, punctuated by innumerable clauses, complex concepts, massive, often latin, words and advanced academic theory. this rapidly gets tiresome for the 'casual' reader.

And this is the very essence of the problem - its just all so heavy and academic. i did a degree in medieval history, studying the crusades in great depth, and just wanted an entertaining refresher 10 years on.

This was not entertaining, nor in any way a 'refresher'.

it is not without its merits though. it does really get into the essence of the crusades, the reasons, the age, the philosophical/religious background and the crusaders' motivations. (although goes way too far into details for an 'intro'.) and the way it eventually compares and contrasts crusading reality and myth to the current state of international politics (ie iraq etc) is geuninely fascinating.

if you are a medieval student preparing to study the crusades, then this is not a bad place to start. (although not the best.) but if you casually looking into the crusades as a matter of interest - look elsewhere. this is way, way to heavy going and far too obsessed with historiography and historical post-crusade argument to offer an entertaining, largely factual account of the crusades.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to the central themes, 19 April 2014
By 
Mr Justin Boston (FAREHAM, Hampshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This book is an analysis of the Crusades as a phenomena. It is not a narrative of the various campaigns.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The greatest folly?, 23 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I always imagine the vsi authors themselves selecting the Philip Atkins painting for the cover of their book; for myself I see the yellow at the bottom as representing the desert of the near east; the blue strip immediately above as representing the sky or perhaps the Dead Sea, or perhaps a mirage; and the grey-green above as ominous clouds. The cover seems appropriate to the subject.

This vsi is one of those previously published outside the series and is I feel an excellent addition and concerning a major series of events in European history - and thus in human history. Do the crusades effectively continue? The author thinks not, but it is easy given the identity of the participants and the location to elide twelfth-century Crusaders into 21st century globalists.

My only criticism - a slight one - is that the seemingly obligatory attacks on Hitler and Franco are gratuitous, unfair (certainly in the case of el generalissimo) and unnecessary. The author there doing what he otherwise castigates, in the last pages of this book; reading the present into the past.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, 30 Oct 2011
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This review is from: The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
Everything as described, well packaged, content of book was exactly as required. Arrived as stated in e-mail. Quality of service was excellent.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating and surprisingly comprehensive, 11 Mar 2007
This review is from: The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)
I am a big fan of the idea behind the Very Short Introduction series, and the way in which they provide information in an easily accesible manner with plenty of scope for further reading. "The Crusades" by Christopher Tyerman is one of its best examples. It is dense material, admittedly, but very readable at the same time.

This is not only a narrative of the events of each crusade but also an exploration of the very idea of the crusade, how it developed, its historical context, the mechanics of how it was decreed and promoted, who went on crusade, how these expeditions were financed. Tyerman briefly touches as well on what life was like in the Holy Land, and the relationship of the Christian colonists to the Muslims. He also examines how similar crusading ideas were applied not just to the Holy Land but also to the pagan lands of the Baltic and the Spanish Reconquista.

For a book that is less 150 pages long, Tyerman thus does a fantastic job of covering the crusades in detail from many different angles. It is certainly less daunting, as well more digestible, than some of the massive tomes (sometimes over 1000 pages) which exist about the crusades. To place the wealth of information in context, the book includes a good number of maps and illustrations, while a list of further reading at the back means that it is possible to follow up on many of the interesting points that Tyerman raises.

In short, this is a brilliantly engaging and surprisingly comprehensive introduction, ideal for both students of medieval history and the casual reader.
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The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by Christopher Tyerman (Paperback - 13 Oct 2005)
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