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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 2 January 2014
I've read a good deal about the Crusades and have visited the Middle East where most of the action took place. I started out reading what many regard as the standard work by Runciman and went on from there. This is clearly a well researched book, easy to read and which covers the subject in a concise yet informative manner.I thought it stood well in comparison to other similar works. Very enjoyable read.
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on 5 December 2010
I have to admit having had this book a while and I kept putting off reading it. Reasons: By an 'academic', quite a heavy read by the looks, and just a general worry that it would be too much to end the day with. But that was swiftly dispelled on getting into the first chapter.

Asbridge literally not only takes you on the crusades he then turns the tables and shows you the Islamic face of it all. You do see the two sides of the fight.

No spoilers here in this review, but certainly it opens up so many questions. Was it the desperation of an 11th Century Pope that really opened up the wound that today we face, that shows itself in so much terrorism and hate?

Just the fact that Jerusalem was a sacred place to Muslims as well as Christians was something new to me. The contrast of the slaughter carried out by the First Crusaders that was not repeated by the jihad leader, Saladin, many years later speaks volumes.

There is enough background into the politics, geography, battles and, yes, some gory details to make this an actually entertaining as well as educating and informative read.
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on 11 April 2014
Whether you come to this mammoth volume having already read Asbridge's account of the First Crusade, or as a stand-alone, this book is compelling. If you've read the First Crusade don't worry too much; he rattles through it in a couple of chapters and while there is inevitaby some repetition, there is in fact some material in this volume which doesn't appear in the other.

Overall, though, it's comprehensive. Asbridge concentrates on taking a pan-European perspective, always setting the scene of the Crusades in the context of European politics and religion which were inevitably closely associated and by no means simple. Crammed with quotes from primary sources, mostly European but occasionally Muslim (he explains why there is an imbalance), Asbridge is not afraid to challenge accepted contemporary opinions, but at the same time this doesn't have the feel of a willfully provocative account. It's not all about battles, either: he goes into great detail about the foundation of the Crusader states - the struggle to get Western society established in the Near East in the decades following the First Crusade, and all the associated problems.

With lots of detailed character development, well-informed comment and just the right pacing, this is an excellent summary for someone who wants a bit more than just a brief introduction but can't handle anything too heavy.
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History, as they say is written by the victors and with recent event's being compared to the Crusades the modern man can perhaps learn from what has gone before in order to prevent repeated the errors of the past.

That said, events have to be looked at in mind of the time, place as well as the setting and to get an objective view, accounts need to be available from both sides of the conflict. This is what Thomas Asbridge has done within this title. Beautifully written, this look at the many crusades, their leaders and outcomes is meticulously researched, especially when the author does his best to tread the middle ground, almost as if he were reporting from the front line of a modern war.

It's detail is staggering, the writing authoritive and to my mind perhaps the most comprehensive account of the crusades to date. For lovers of history this title is going to be a must have title especially when backed with the research to become a prize of capture itself.
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on 6 February 2013
While many history books focus on The Crusades from just one view point, the Christians or the Muslims, Thomas Asbridge has decided to convey the epic tale of The Crusades from both perspectives. This is a fantastic way to educate your audience as you avoid a large proportion of bias. It also allows the reader to assess the situation from both sides and then make an informed opinion on why something happened. While the book is rather brief towards the end, compared to the vast detail on the First, Second and Third crusades, I believe that the book serves as a great gateway to explore the various other crusades as well as those undertaken in the Baltic and modern-day Spain. If you want to educate yourself about The Crusades then I thoroughly recommend you buy this book, it fills you in on the necessary basics and allows you to explore other areas in greater depth. Great book.
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on 28 March 2016
For over a thousand years inter-religious strife has been focused on the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas. Jerusalem is a holy place for the three Abrahamic religions and therefore is a jewel fought over. Conquered by Islamic forces in the 7th century, Christian pilgrims were still able to access the holy places but by the 11th century the papacy felt that Jerusalem should be rules by Christians. Thus began two centuries of warfare for possession of the Holy Land involving the elite of the European nobility and a succession of Muslim rulers.

This is a superb book, meticulously researched and full of detail. What is really important about this book is the fact that it offers a balanced view of the times. Most books focus solely on the 'Franks' but Asbridge also considers the muslim situation in depth, neither side was truly focused and both were riven by issues related to leadership. This aspect gives a depth to the history which is refreshing. Asbridge also expands the view to consider the hijacking of the word 'crusade' in modern times. This is a definitive history of a relatively short but violent series of encounters.
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on 21 October 2014
This book is excellent. I can read a 680 page 'Stephen King' in 3 days, but this 680-pager will take a bit longer. You can't rush it. There's fascinating stuff on every page, and it's so well written. I certainly didn't know that the first crusade was drummed up by Pope Urban in 1095, who told horror stories of slavery, torture and desecration by the Muslims in Jerusalem. This was not true and in fact the different religions in the Holy Land were getting on quite well, yet thousands of western soldiers, men women and children were urged to march to Asia Minor to win back Jerusalem. Asbridge tells both sides of these battles, in easy-to-read detail. My only problem is remembering it all!
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on 25 October 2010
I completely agree with every other review - this is an outstanding book that covers the whole crusading era from both the Islamic and Christian point of view. It discusses the social, political and religious aspect of the crusades in great detail. All the main characters of the time (plus many of the lesser known ones) are brought to life. The book is well researched, very well written and unbiased. It has enough maps to keep me happy and there are 16 pages of photographs/illustrations. The only down side for me was that Mr Asbridge didn't go into enough detail on the military tactics used by the armies involved and gives comparatively brief descriptions of the battles that took place. Please don't let that put you off this masterpiece of a book. It still thoroughly deserves the five stars awarded by me and the other reviewers.
I'm not sure how useful the book will be for students studying History and such like, but for everyone else who's interested in this era - you won't find a better alternative.
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on 8 March 2014
Although 800 pages or so, it does not read that way. Asbridge has succeeded in bringing the Crusades to life in a scholarly fashion without over complicating a layered and textured subject. The writing is light but not without detail, and it is often enlivened by excellent use of anecdotes. To use a well-worn phrase it wears it's scholarship lightly, and as such is an excellent though thorough introduction. Asbridge is an excellent story-teller as anyone who watched his BBC series on the Crusades (this is the book of the series if you were in any doubt). I always believe a good 'narrative style' title is the best way to study any historical topic. Were I a student again, I would start here and move on to Prof Housley's 'Fighting for the Cross' which is also an important though readable work, which approaches the subject in general, thematically. For greater detail than Asbridge, move on to Tyerman's 'God's War', also work by J. Riley-Smith. I cannot recommend this title strongly enough to the titular reader.
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VINE VOICEon 14 November 2010
I shall keep this short, which the author did not do. The book is riveting. It is an all-encompassing history that reads like a novel, full of fascinating characters with all the strengths and weaknesses of humankind. There are heroes and villains on both sides of the conflict - characters like Nur-Al-Din for example, or Bohemond. The political and religious background of the Crusades are investigated, and the rôles of the various Popes and Bernard of Clairvaux. The social organisation of the Crusader states - I could go on and on. My only gripe (it is not really a complaint) is that the book is so long and so involving it is keeping me from other great books that are sitting waiting to be read, but I cannot leave off reading it. I am not even up to the confrontation between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin yet, so I know there is great stuff still to come, and I am resisting the temptation to skip a few chapters. It really is as good as that. A good buy and a great read. Highly recommended.
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