Decent books about the Crusades

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Voices_in_my_head, Nov 3, 2005.

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  1. Ladies, Gents.
    Anyone have any suggestions of readable books on the above?
  2. Currently reading:
    The Crusades through Arab eyes by Amin Maalouf.
    Worth reading. The Crusaders certainly come across as a little uncivilised.

  3. Thanks PB, looking to cover all sides of subject, will certainly check this one out.
  4. Sixty

    Sixty LE Moderator Book Reviewer
    1. ARRSE Cyclists and Triathletes

    'The Crusades' by Terry Jones is quite a good read. It's the supporting book for the TV series that he did in 1995. It's balanced and accurate (if memory serves. It's been about 10 years since I read it)
  5. The most definitive text on the crusades is, in my opinion, Steven Runciman's 3 volume History of the Crusades. extracts can be found on the web.

    You can also read some of my thoughts on the crusades in the arrse military history forum though I do not pretend to be as capable a scholar as Runciman.

    Over the years I have aquired a lot of reading material on the subject. As a bibliography might I suggest

    J. Riley-Smith, The Crusades. A Short History, (London, 1987)
    J. Riley-Smith, The First Crusade And The Idea of Crusading, (London, 1993)
    W.B. Bartlett, God Wills It! An Illustrated History of The Crusades, (Stroud, 2000)
    Walter Porges, ‘The Clergy, The Poor and The Non-Combatants on The First Crusade.’ Speculum 21:1 (1946)
    W.B. Bartlett, God Wills It! (Stroud, 2000)
    Ernle Bradford, The Sword and the Scimitar, (Barnsley, 2004)
    H.A.R. Gibb, The Arabic Sources for the Life of Saladin, (Oxford, 1950)
    Terry Jones and Alan Ereira, Crusades, (London, 1996)
    Mas Latrie (Ed.), Chronique d’Ernoul et de Bernard le Tresorier, (Paris, 1871)
    Joshua Prawer, The World of the Crusaders, (London, 1972)
    Steven Runcimen, A History of the Crusades 1: The First Crusade, (Cambridge, 1951)
    Steven Runcimen, A History of the Crusades 2: The Kingdom of Jerusalem, (Cambridge, 1952)
    Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades 3: The Kingdom of Acre, (Cambridge, 1954)
    Hisham Nashabe (Ed.) Studia Palaestina: Studies in honour of Constantine, (Beirut 1988)
    Stubbs (Ed.) Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi, (London, 1864)

    Might I enquire what you are undertaking? Or is this just personal study for your own interest? If I can be of any help please ask.
  6. Thanks all for very helpful (as always) advice.
    LairdX, just purely for personal reasons, I must have slept through that year at school. It began with Mrs V and 13 yr old V minor watching Kingdom of Heaven, V minor asked what the film was about and I found myself at a complete loss to explain!

    I have "God Wills It!" on order at the local library, looks a good starting point.
  7. Lairdx. Must apologise, just found your interesting Crusades thread.

    Must use "search" in future!
  8. As a starting point Kingdom of Heaven is set just before the third crusade. There were lots of crusades but in my opinion only the first was truly successful. there is a pub n Nottingham called the olde trip to jerusalem which was built in the same year (1197)
    probably the oldest pub in England if not Britain.

    The character Balian really existed, as did Sybilla and the two did get it together. As far as I'm aware Balian didn't work as a blacksmith but apart from that the evnts in the film do provide a surprisingly good historical interpretation. Probably why the film didn't do so well.
  9. "The Crusades" by Hans Eberhard Mayer (Oxford Univ Press, 1972; 2nd ed 1988). Excellent scholarly overview - saw me through A level history back in the '70s.

    Lairdx - like your comments/ reflections on the Crusades and agree totally with your analysis that only the 1st was really totally successful. We tend, however, I feel to overlook somewhat the contemporary reality that Christian Europe was fighting for its cultural/ spiritual autonomy. Not politically correct, but ever since the "Arab Conquest" period Europe had lived with the threat of subjugation by a militant new creed that - despite the current propaganda to the contrary - conquered and forcibly converted by "fire and sword". The Seljuk Turks represented a new and vigorous manifestation of that threat and access to the "Holy Places" was a powerfully symbolic issue for a vulnerable "Christendom", not to mention the "clear and present danger" posed to Byzantium. Nor did the threat go away for a very long time - eg the Ottomans!

    Last weekend, watched what was in my opinion a discracefully biased TV programme re the Moors in Spain. Yes, Moorish Spain was a great civilisation, but there was no balanced analysis of why the Spanish fought so hard for so long to "reconquer" their own lands. Did not seem to have occurred to anyone involved that the Moors, great though they were, simply had no business being there in the first place; Iberia was not theirs to rule, no matter how well they did it. Yeah, sure, it was really just a "Spanish civil war"(as the presenters informed the viewer) - no-one really cared about fundamentally different revelations of God with all that these implied re politics/ society!!

    Similarly, I found it irritating to be informed constantly how much we in the West owe to Islam: yes, Medieval Islamic scholarship/ science was exceptional, and yes much was learnt/ copied. However, no mention of the fact that much (in fact most!) of this Arab/ Muslim learning was, in truth, that of the Classical World preserved/ recycled in Muslim universities, court circles etc - with the exception of mathematics very little was original. No problem with crediting the Muslim world with preserving much that might otherwise have been lost - good on them - but the fact remains that the European Renaissance was the final flowering of late Medieval Christian civilisation, financed/ driven by the vigorous, individualistic and ferociously competitive economic powerhouses of the N Italian City States and the Low Countries. From this developed the modern nation state, the Enlightenment and, ultimately - after much pain! - secular, democratic government. There is no way that a Muslim Europe would have developed in this way - Islam simply does not allow for such rigorous individualism.

    The Ottoman Empire is oft cited as evidence to the contrary, but in my view this does not wash: a slave state, albeit a relatively benign one, in which all were subject to the will of the Sultan; even the Grand Vizier was a slave! Much is made of Muslim tolerance of Christians, Jews etc - yes, legal status was accorded to "Peoples of the Book", but they were still "Zhimmi" who could not own property, make contracts etc, whose word was automatically accorded lower status than that of any Muslim. The Ottoman military elite were either slaves (Janissaries) or the "Sipahis" who held land under a sort of feudal tenure from the Sultan, but estates always reverted to the government on the death of the holder because in a slave state it would never have done to risk creating an independent landowning class. All of this was fine when the boss was of the calibre of Suleiman "The Magnificent" but became a bit problematic by the mid C16th when the increasingly inbred, drunken (double standards re alcohol! A great Islamic tradition!) and paranoid sultans really lost the plot: as the Turks observe, "when a fish rots it does so from the head down!". In short, a very powerful and once great , but ultimately ossified and corrupt, imperium was eventually defeated by a more vigorous, flexible and innovative civilisation that then went on to shape the modern world.

    In my view, it's significant that today's "Islamacists" harp on constantly about the lost glories of "Al Andalus"- as though somehow the wicked "crusaders" stole what was rightfully theirs! The Moors came and conquered/ occupied - and certainly left a legacy - but, ultimately, despite centuries of rule, failed to convince a substantial part of the indigenous people that their vision of the future was the one to go with. You lost - tough, get over it.

    Sure, many terrible things were done by crusaders and their minions, but the Muslim powers were not blameless either, but this seems to be forgotten today. Far from being the "first example of European colonialism" (the analysis so beloved of one of my university tutors), the "Crusades" for me represent the start of a long defensive war fought by Christian Europe against an oppressive theocracy that was - and is - utterly intolerant of all who "shirk" or deviate from Islamic doctrine. As far as I'm concerned they can Foxtrot Romeo Oscar. Strategically, therefore, the Crusades were an overall success - they blunted the sword of rampant Islam allowing Medieval Europe to develop and, eventually, to flourish in its own ways.

    I'm no Christian fundamentalist, just a wishy-washy Anglican who wants to live and let live - except when some tosser wants to impose on me. Am sickened by the constant stream of prelates apologising to the Muslim world for the Crusades; as pointless and pathetic as if we were to demand apologies from the French for the horrors of the Norman Conquest. I expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to stand to and defend to the hilt the right of all to believe as they wish, and to speak out vigorously in defence of oppressed Christians in the Muslim world. Mind you, I suppose it's too much to expect anything other than hand-wringing drivel from a man who nominates a gay bishop and then doesn't have the guts to defend his appointment in the face of criticism from fundamentalist bigots in his own church.

    Finally, my Muslim friends (wishy washies like me, of course - shirkers all!)) agree totally with my views re the Crusades - they're exceedingly glad to be citizens of a liberal, pluralistic democracy and are damned pleased that we fought off the nutters all those years ago. I'm also in favour of Turkish membership of the EU - the only way, IMHO, to ensure that it continues to develop as a secular democracy; the alternative is too horrible to contemplate!
  10. Others might include...

    Smail, R. C.; Small, R. C.; Marshall, Christopher Crusading Warfare, 1097-1193:
    Sir Charles Oman, A History of the Art of War in the Middle Ages:.378-1278
    Terry Jones, Alan Ereira The Crusades (BBC Books)
  11. Thanks, Wessex_Man - you've saved me the bother of posting.
  12. Wessex Man, great post!! One of the most concise arguments on the Crusades that I've read in a long time!

    In addition to the books already mentioned, I found Monks of War by Desmond Seward to be an interesting read.
  13. Though presumably, if one goes back far enough, there is no legitimate rule anywhere, by any government. Constantine ought not to have insisted on Christian rule for Europe in the first place, Harold should not have fallen at Hastings and allowed in the Frenchies, we would not be involved in an on going series of TELICs on the basis that the Baath would not have been able to oust the King, who, in turn would still have been an Ottoman, no Sassanid, no tribal, no… That aside, all of these events took place prior to the Treaty of Westfalia in 1648, and as such are antecedent to contemporary understanding of what a nation state is, how it works and what rights pertain to them as independent entities.

    … anymore; though it is arguable that the ossification of Islamic thought owes less to the closing of the doors of iftihad and the oppression of the Ottoman Caliphate than to the imperialism of Western States after the European Renaissance…

    Convivencia did, though allow a truly cross-cultural flowering of intellectual and social development. Whatever one's opinions with resect to the status of the Dhimmi in later Ottoman rule - and the status of the various Millet meant a greater degree of religious autonomy within the Caliphate than under the See of either Rome or Byzantium. In the final analysis, the explosive expansion of the Islamic rule in the first centuries after the death of Muhammad was directly due to the religious freedoms which were granted to 'non-conformist' (small 'c') Christian groups and the Jewish communities which had been persecuted as heretics by the ruling Christian Imperial states.

    See my comments above regarding the religious tolerance of Islam with respect to the indigenous Xn and Jewish populations in the territories which fell under Islamic rule. Whilst there is less evidence of specific Christians attaining high office in Al-Andalusian, or the wider Caliphate, there are a wide variety of references to influential Jews. The paucity of Xn representation is as a result of their own attitudes to the Muslims rather than the reverse. Plenty of evidence exists for the cosmopolitan nature of the higher reaches of academe – and the old libel that the Eastern ‘universities’ achieved little more than act as libraries and storehouses for the knowledge of the Classical West, is just that.

    Well okay, perhaps, but its difficult to see any evidence of (officially sanctioned, authorised or organised) Islamic oppression of the Xn pilgrim in the holy land in the period prior to Urban II’s Sermon at Clermont, and whilst there might well have been a threat to Byzantium, they were hardly blameless in their own conflict with the Islamic power. A far more coherent argument, centres around Urban's wish to extend the temporal powers of the Pontificate whilst simultaneously allowing for the ‘Frankish’ nobility to escape the taint of the blood which they were required to spill by noblesse oblige.

    On Turkey; agreed. Though I foresee more than just the one alternative.
  14. I suppose these should be in there. Oops...

    Asbridge,T. The First Crusade: A New History

    or even,

    Burl, A. God's Heretics: The Albigensian Crusade

    It is hard to reconcile the crusades even with Christian Just War Theory in light of the fact that when the crusaders asked Arnold-Aimery [Innocent's Papal Legate] whom to kill, he said "Kill them all. God will know his own."