The Crusades: A Short History Paperback – 15 Nov 2001
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"'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.See all Product Description
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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)
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.
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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