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The Crusades: A Short History Paperback – 15 Nov 2001

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd.; 2nd New edition of Revised edition edition (15 Nov. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826459544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826459541
  • Product Dimensions: 23.2 x 15.6 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,869,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"'When it was first published in 1987, Jonathan Riley-Smith's The Crusades was acclaimed as the most comprehensive and authoritative survey of the crusading movement written by a British historian. This new edition includes numerous revisions and additions which bring his treatment of the subject up to date. The book is written with verve and insight, and will give this excellent text a fresh lease of life.' -- Professor Norman Housley, University of Leicester '[Riley-Smith] presents the most comprehensive and up-to-date discussion of the crusading phenomenon in all its manifestations. [This] is the first scholarly history of the crusades that attempts to delineate the major perceptions of crusading in modern times from Sir Walter Scott to Osama bin Laden.' -- Prof. Benjamin Z. Kedar, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem 'Everything is here: the crusades to the Holy Land, and against the Albigensians, the Moors, the pagans in Eastern Europe, the Turks, and the enemies of the popes. Riley Smith writes a beautiful, lucid prose,... (and his book) is packed with facts and action.' -- Choice 'A concise, clearly written synthesis... by one of the leading historians of the crusading movement.' - Robert S. Gottfried, Historian 'A lively and flowing narrative (with) an enormous cast of characters that is not a mere catalog but a history.... A remarkable achievement.'-Thomas E. Morrissey, Church History --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

A comprehensive history of the Crusades: an account of the theology of violence behind the Crusades, the major Crusades, the experience of crusading, and the crusaders themselves. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Format: Paperback
I was required to read this book for my degree module on the Crusades. It is extremely detailed and obviously meticulously researched. A good basic account of the crusades. Just a couple of niggles: there is very little about what the Muslms thought about the sudden incursion of the Christians. That would have made the book more comprehensive. Also, I would suggest that anyone interested in this period read Christopher Tyerman's The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction and his most recent work God's War. These books present a more up-to-date view of the period and the people, and dispel some of the myths which persist on both sides of the religious divide. So good as Riley-Smith's book is, Tyerman's work is much more challenging to past and present attitudes to and beliefs about, the period.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 30 reviews
92 of 95 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crossing the Line 24 July 2000
By Sailoil - Published on
Format: Paperback
The previous reviewer (Jarvis) dismisses this book as a text. I beg to disagree. For the serious reader of history this is undoubtedly a useful reference work, but I read the book as someone who dabbles a toe in the military history of different ages. I found this to be an accessible and informative work. It is a history, not a novel, and as a history it delivers a good meaty narrative backed up with in-depth analysis of events. Although it is called a concise history the book is by no means a concise work. It spans a period of hundreds of years of history and examines crusades that I never knew were crusades and some I never knew existed. I hadn't realised that the war in Spain between Christian and Moorish kings had achieved official papal crusade standard, and I was unaware of the crusades that were fought along the German borders throughout the period. I recommend this book to anyone who has a thirst for information on this period, drink deep from this well and be satisfied. This is one of those rare books that crosses the line between textbook and non-fiction.
115 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An up to date review of the history of the Crusades 17 Sept. 2002
By Arthur Sippo - Published on
Format: Paperback
The previous reviewer is far more interetested in anti-Catholic bigotry than in the current state of historical scholarship on the Crusades. Dr. Riley-Smith's book is up to date while the previous work of Runciman (and others) is considered passe by the professional historian. Unfortunately, people with an axe to grind rarely are interested in the facts when their cherished preconceptions are in jeopardy.
Dr. Riley-Smith's book covers not only the medieval Crusades but also other religious wars in the later historic times. He demonstrates the complex motivations of the major figures in these various conflicts and shows that their primary concern had been religious, not economic or imperialistic. There is no "cover up" of some of the darker aspects of the Crusades, but Riley-Smith has a better understanding of the 'sitz im leben' of the Medieval world than many previous writers on this subject. Dr. Riley Smith is careful not to judge people from another time by modern standards. He dispels a number of myths that men like Runciman have unfortunately perpetuated.
This is an excellent review book for the general topic of religious wars since the Middle Ages. For more information, see these books:
The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades
The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (Middle Ages Series)
The First Crusaders, 1095-1131
What Were the Crusades? (Forthcoming)
The New Cambridge Medieval History: Volume 4, c. 1024 - c. 1198, Part 1 (Forthcoming)
56 of 61 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Introduction to the Crusades 7 Feb. 2001
By Jeffrey Leach - Published on
Format: Paperback
As the back of this book states, this is a very concise account of the history of the crusading movement that occurred from the 12th to the 18th century. Riley-Smith really knows his stuff and his writing style is lucid and the book flows well.
This is somewhat of a survey book, in that the reader gets a good overview of the Crusades. The text goes beyond a survey however, in that there are vast amounts of names, places and dates. I read this book for a class on this topic, and I had some problems with the amount of minutiae that Riley-Smith included in this book. I'm just starting to learn about this topic; so obscure names are tough to slog through. What saves the book is that it is still possible to come away with a good understanding of the general themes of the text. I was amazed at the number of crusading campaigns that were undertaken, and not just in Palestine. There were movements in the Baltic, in Germany, and in North Africa. The attempts by the Spaniards to get the Moors out of Spain was considered a crusade, as was attempts to put down heresies against the Catholic Church in France. Eventually, the Church saw heresy as more of a threat against Christianity than the Muslim menace in the East. It is also interesting to see how the Church escalated the promises of indulgences to get people to go on crusade. I wasn't too happy about the author's tendency to skip about and play loose with his timeline. It made for some fairly confusing reading.
A tough book for a beginner, but it does have moments of brilliance. It probably is a good starting point for this topic, but since it is the first book I've read on the topic, I'm guessing on this point. Informative.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Crusades made accessible to the general public 28 Dec. 2005
By Hernan Cortes - Published on
Format: Paperback
On an impulse I purchased this work by Jonathan Riley-Smith in early 2004. At first, although I found the content interesting and thorough, it did not engage my simple mind at the time which up until that point had been lulled into more of an escapist mode with works of science fiction. However, that was before the release of the popular cinematic event known as, 'The Kingdom of Heaven'. After its viewing I was concerned that the historical content of the feature film may not have been completely accurate. Therefore, I dusted off my copy of this book and began to read it avidly. Within its covers I was able to discover the true events before, during and after the fall of Jerusalem into the hands of Saladin in 1187. I became acquainted with the true characters of the First Crusade and with those that followed after. While the film previously mentioned tends to show bias and even gravely negative in its approach to the Templar knights in particular, the work here refutes any such fanciful history. Riley-Smith is even-handed in his approach to all participants in the many and various crusades showing partiality to none. Further, I appreciated the style with which Dr. Riley-Smith wrote his book. It flows easily so much so that it is fitting for, IMHO, readers aged 13 and older. This is by no means a children's book, however. Far from it in fact. I would encourage anyone with a genuine interest in the facts of the often misunderstood and misrepresented Crusades to acquaint yourself with this, in my opinion, essential work. Within its covers you will find that the initial motivations for the First Crusade centered around the threat of Muslim warriors on the Eastern borders of Christendom and the endangerment of pilgrimage routes to and from the Holy Land. Further, you will be introduced thoroughly into the motivations and to the growth of the only unitive authority of Western Europe at that time, the Catholic Church. Also, you will learn of the intrigue and political manueverings of the Byzantine emperors and the early Crusade leaders as they made their way into the disputed territories. After the fall of Jerusalem to the Franks you will learn how the Latin Kings maintained order giving to the rise of the military orders. Jonathan Riley-Smith does an excellent job of describing the fortunes and misfortunes of the Levantine society while surrounded by a growing threat from the east. He carries the reader easily through and explaining the events of the Crusades in all of their forms from the Latin liberation to the reconquest of Spain to the Balkan conquests and the efforts taken to preserve religious unity and order throughout Western civilization. Ample ink is also spilled concerning the reactions of the Muslims to the Crusaders including, in like manner, the political intriguies and motivations within the varied Muslim dynasties and camps. He shows in great detail that no one group was completely without error in the almost 800 year old struggle even showing that there was much fighting to be had for Christian vs. Muslim, Christian vs. Pagan, Christian vs. Christian, Christian vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Jew, Muslim vs. Muslim, Muslim vs. Pagan, etc. Further, there is much evidence that often each monotheistic society would side with one another against the third in defense as well as in offense. (a side note: I found it intriguing that even Protestants, at the time no friend of the Catholic Church, cheered on the primarily Catholic defeat of the Muslim navy at the historic Battle of Lepanto thus ensuring their own survivability) Within its covers I discovered much detail of things I certainly were not aware of having only information based on the major media, Hollywood and the often unreliable Internet. I highly recommend this work to anyone who would like to get the straight facts of this prolonged struggle and also of its lasting effects both positive and negative on the formation of modern civilization as we know it.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Massive, Informative, and Difficult 30 Aug. 2007
By David E. Blair - Published on
Format: Paperback
Granting each of the previous reviewers problems with this book, it still stands as the current best one volume history of the Crusades that I have encountered. Furthermore, as Crusade history has become a booming industry since 9/11, this book is also published by Continuum in both paperback and hardback with another printing coming later this year. There are some interesting reviews of this book under the Continuum paperback edition listing here on Amazon that the reader may wish to consult. There are no footnotes, almost no white space and the print density is weak. The publisher, Yale NB, has chosen to turn a larger 392 page hardback into a compact 357 page paperback. I will assume this was done to keep costs down. So being forewarned if you wish to understand the Crusades and have some background in the history of the Middle Ages in Europe and the Middle East, buy this book and read it. If you have no background in the history of the Middle Ages, it might be best to find one of the many excellent one volume considerations of the entire era and read it before this book. You will be rewarded with far greater insight into the author's analysis of the Crusades.

As the crusades are a specialist topic within the history of the Middle Ages, the author assumes that you, the reader, are conversant with such issues as the investiture crisis and church reform of the era for example. This may cause some confusion for the casual reader. However, there is still much to be learned here regardless of your knowledge of the Middle Ages. Further, Riley-Smith is a "pluralist." And this is a "plural history" in that it includes material on the Baltic, Spanish, Italian political, anti-heretical and other permutations of the Crusades as well as those directed at the holy lands and the Muslims. Each chapter within itself provides a reasonable narrative history of the topic under discussion. But to cover the subject fully, various specialized topics are considered at length that chop up the flow of material. The material is generally chronologically arranged but in no sense is this eloquent narrative prose. And yet out of all this, a detailed picture of the crusading movement and Middle Age Christian piety emerge. And, that unique European Middle Age Christian fervor is what drove the Crusades and make them explicable in a fashion that is not riddled by conceptual anachronisms.

It is this reader's opinion that only with a plural historical framework can the Crusades be considered adequately to be understood as a function of their own time and culture. This Riley-Smith accomplishes with more credibility than any other one volume history of the Crusades that I have read so far. And, I have read most of this material. A fascinating short historiographical essay closes the text, and a remarkable and detailed bibliography is provided with extensive helpful commentary from the author. If you have an axe to grind with the Catholic Church, look elsewhere. If you are looking for supposed contemporary relevance in the Crusades, other books will provide you with far more of what you want. If you are sure that the Crusades were an imperialistic and proto-colonial activity, this book is not for you. If you find the Crusades to be the last massive act of European barbarism, read Runciman. In remarkable detail, Christendom's decent into armed intolerance and coercion is explained and illuminated by this work. This is not a happy story, and one wonders what the man from Galilee who said, "Love your enemies...," would think about all this. This book is near mandatory reading for any reader wishing to have more than a passing acquaintance with the history of the Crusades.
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