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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 29 November 2017
I've never really read much about the crusades, but Thomas Asbridge's book completely filled in that gap in my historical reading. Packed full of detail, I can see why it was a major tv series. Brilliantly written, this is a great book to 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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on 27 October 2016
Mythology, misrepresentation and misunderstanding of the crusades has had a huge impact on politics and culture the 20th and 21st centuries. The plethora of names, of people and places, and lack of good maps (at least in the Kindle edition) sometimes makes it seem hard going, but take in the bigger picture and then debunk those who indiscriminately refer to crusades and jihad as justifying their twisted politics today.
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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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on 12 June 2014
An excellent history book that reads like a long, exciting novel. Fanaticism on all sides rips apart the Middle East from Turkey to Egypt - ring any bells? This book explains many of the issues that continue to divide Islamic nations today, as well as the religious fanaticism in Europe that led to the crusades. The book is long, clearly written and enjoyable to read, although the misery and atrocities suffered by both sides are appalling. I thought the story of Outremer, the four Crusader states created by the first crusade and which existed (and co-existed) for over 150 years, particularly interesting; also the story of Salāḥ al-Din (Saladin), and the role played by the Knights Templar and other religious military orders.
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on 26 February 2018
There is no better book on the Crusades than this one. It is written beautifully in language that the layman (like me) can understand. I'll certainly be looking out for more such works by Thomas Asbridge.
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on 5 February 2015
Read this initially from the Library and thoroughly enjoyed it so bought my own copy and intend to re-read in the future. Not easy in parts.Place names/character names needed to be learnt but still a very good book by an author I had not read previously but is obviously on top of his game.
Would recommend highly.
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on 21 January 2016
never was interested in the Crusades when I was at school pity our teachers didn't have this book.The thing that surprised me is Lionheart didn't join until they,d been at it for a 100 years.Mind you nothing's changed has it???.
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on 13 October 2014
This is such a good book! I love a well written book on history and this is certainly one of them. It retells the events and context of the various crusades in vivid detail, exploring all the main protagonists and also piquing other areas of interest such as the Assassins. I couldn't put it down, I wish all historical books were as good as this, told with a fine vocabulary and narrative pace.
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