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3.0 out of 5 stars A Marmite book, 24 Aug 2011
This review is from: The Invention of the Crusades (Paperback)
Tyerman has long been a kind of bad boy of Crusades scholarship, and this book reflects this. Unlike Jonathan Riley-Smith - the sort of grand ole man of Crusades literature - Tyerman seems to keen to produce texts which thrive on challenge. Fine in its way, but in this text Tyerman goes beyond challenge to the point of irascibility which left me feeling that he suffered from being just a grumpy old man!
This is not to say that his arguments are not worth a hearing. The book's main premise that the Crusades as an institution was 'invented' by later generations of clerics and historians is certainly an interesting one. He is absolutely right in saying that the (mostly) Franks who carried out the expeditions to the East did not call them crusades. Among other things they were often called pilgrimages. However, his arguement is just not convincing enough. Tyerman asserts that those who went on these expeditions had been on such journeys before so the idea was nothing new. However Riley-Smith and others have show clearly that what took place during the 11th and 12th centuries was actually unique.
I think by biggest issue with Tyerman is that some much of the work is devoted to attacking the work of other historians, and implying that they were effectively incompetent. The bibliographic essay at the end of the book is good, but snipes at people like Riley-Smith and Norman Housley seem uncalled for. Tyerman seems to feel that the Crusades - almost more than any other event in human history - have been hijacked by those who want to re-interpret them to suit their own particular ideology (including Saddam Hussein). Nonsense of course, but part of what seems very narrow in Tyerman's approach.
The book is also of little practical use to a student new to the period as it assumes a far wider knowledge of European history of the period, and well as the events of the Crusades themselves than can be expected.
A good book to get you talking!
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The Invention of the Crusades
The Invention of the Crusades by Christopher Tyerman (Paperback - 8 Jun 1998)
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