The Crusades Review

The Crusades by Thomas Asbridge claims to be the authoritative book on the war for the Holy Land. It’s a pretty bold claim but since I know almost nothing on this subject matter, I’ll let others decide on that. What I did get out of reading this book felt akin to being taken on a field trip through time to witness one of the most extraordinary period in history. The Crusading period was always something that intrigued me and after having devoured this tome of a book, I can see why it still fascinates so many historians and researchers till this very day. There is so much follow up learning that I have to do post completion of this book! The timeline and most importantly, the main players within the three centuries covered in this period, deserves way more attention than what can be squeezed into this one book despite its gigantic size. Despite all this, I still felt there was one glaring issue with The Crusades that in my opinion doesn’t live up to the author labeling his work as authoritative.

I felt the author did an excellent job in trying to be as unbiased as possible throughout the writing of this book. With religion being a hot topic during crusading period, I wanted a presenter to just do their job of presenting the information on hand and leaving their bias out of it unless it was justified. There are many times though when the author would offer his own views and reasonings when disagreeing with certain theories and accepted ideas from contemporaries. This is done in a manner that doesn’t seem biased or unfair but rather takes the ‘hindsight’ approach to reaffirm his ideas. The Crusades does a good job of bouncing between both sides of the campaign to show the readers just how the events affected the daily lives of potentially hundreds of thousands of lives during this period. Not only that, it gives us an idea of how battles were won or lost due to decisions and indecisions of certain individuals. This was the a big highlight for me because well, there were many battles during this time and they ultimately decided many things. The picture painted here during major sieges and battles are vivid and to the point.

The biggest criticism I can give The Crusades is the lack of attention paid to the later part of the Crusading history. The author goes through the first three Crusades with alarming details. However, I noticed that this changed towards the end. Whether or not this was due to lack of historic materials or whatnot I cannot tell but I would have loved it if the author had spent just as much attention to the end of the Crusading era as it did in the beginning. In fact it was weird when I noticed the author actually stopped labeling the crusades as actual ‘Crusades’ attempt in the book after the fourth or so. I had to look up myself on just how many official crusading attempts there were because although the author talks about them towards the end, he didn’t actually label them in the book as The X’th Crusade and so forth. I also did wish that more time was spent on the Orders of the Knights. They played a large part in The Crusade’s history and were in theory an extension of the law itself. I’m not fretting too much though because there are a lot of other history books that talk about this very subject in depth and this book was a good enough start on the subject as any other.

The Crusades is undoubtedly one of the most interesting historic event to have ever happened and this book was a good eye opener to a beginner like me. It was easy to read and follow. Obviously when a event spans over three centuries it can be a bit challenging to keep up with all the names and relationships between all the parties involved but this is to be expected. To have lived through this period must have been terrifying. To have gone on a mission like a crusade to cleanse one’s soul is something that just astonishes me. The amount of religious fervor must have been at an all time high to drive people towards such a goal. However, I ultimately believe that this book taught me that The Crusades were more than just men on either side of the battlefield trying to kill each other. Yes, there was definitely a lot of that no doubt but what is always intriguing about history is to get a chance to learn how that came about and what we can learn to prevent it from happening again. Although I can’t compare The Crusades to any other book on the subject matter, I’m glad to have picked it as my very first!


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