The Crusades is an authoritative, accessible single-volume history of the brutal struggle for the Holy Land in the Middle Ages. Thomas Asbridge - a renowned historian who writes with "maximum vividness" (Joan Acocella, The New Yorker) - covers the years 1095 to 1291 in this big, ambitious, listenable account of one of the most fascinating periods in history. From Richard the Lionheart to the mighty Saladin, from the emperors of Byzantium to the Knights Templar, Asbridge's book is a magnificent epic of holy war between the Christian and Islamic worlds, full of adventure, intrigue, and sweeping grandeur.
©2010 Thomas Asbridged (P)2016 HarperCollins Publishers
There are a few topics that get short shrift in Asbridge's account, like the Albigensien Crusade and the People's Crusade. But if you want a comprehensive history of the wars fought in the Middle East, he's your guy. Asbridge writes with great narrative pace without sacrificing detail; he clarifies both the complex political history of Outremer and the moment-by-moment action of the great battles and sieges. The story is filled with great personalities - Saladin, Richard Lionheart, the sad Louis King of France, the brutal Baybars. A final chapter reflects on how the crusades have been used as reference points in later history. Derek Perkins' reading is brisk and interesting.
I loved listening to this book a learned a ton I didn't know about the Crusades. I found the narrator to be engaging and easy to understand. It provided views on events from Christian and Islamic sides and doesn't seem to hold either in a higher esteem and viewed them fairly.
This book taught me more than just about any other historical piece I have read. It manages to masterfully put the Crusades in a format that shows the personalities on both sides that created the political conditions that fueled the hundred years of violence between two competing religions, philosophies and political systems for dominance of Palestine and its religious sites, holy to both sides.
"Your criticism sounds as if you have read too many critical books and are too smart in an artificial, destructive, very limited way."
I found this book fascinating. As bridge really makes quite the attempt to be as objective as possible, given the limited amount of time and detail inherent in a comprehensive overview. I found his recounting of the Third Crusade particularly engrossing. Well worth a listen.
Really good, with well researched and objective content. However, there are a few small problems. The author gets the characteristics of European arms and armor completely wrong. He says that mail was very poor armor, when in fact it is very effective, taking tremendously powerful hits and keeping the wearer safe. His view of European swords is also wrong, viewing them as crowbars rather than the agile weapons they truly are. This shows a disturbing lack of personal research of the primary sources. All one has to do is read contemporary accounts and handle accurate reproductions to know how wrong this segment was.
Also, the author consistently mentions different units of currency throughout the book but with no comparison of the currency or what a unit of the currency was worth. This information might be in the physical book.
A very indepth history of the Crusades. The length and breadth of the title did make it difficult the finish, but well worth a listen.
I have recommended this audiobook to friends, who like me, appreciate in-depth research presented authoritatively in easily-digested narrative.
I enjoyed the detailed accounts of the actors, attitudes, motivations and locations of the events we know as the Crusades, presented from Western AND Muslim points of view.
Derek Perkins' proper pronunciation helped greatly in my understanding of the material as I followed his narration in the hard-copy book. His pronunciation of French and Arabic names aided in a more thorough understanding of the historic figures and Middle Eastern locations of the Crusades.
Though this book provoked no extreme reactions like laughter or tears, I came away with a feeling of complete satisfaction for having spent the time listening to the accounts of a two hundred year span of human history.
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