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The Era of the Crusades | [The Great Courses]

The Era of the Crusades

What were the forces that led to one of history's most protracted and legendary periods of conflict? How did they affect the three great civilizations that participated in them? And, ultimately, why did they end and what did they accomplish? In these 36 lectures, you'll look at the "big picture" of the Crusades as an ongoing period of conflict involving Western Christendom (we would now call it Western Europe), the Byzantine Empire, and the Muslim world.
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Publisher's Summary

What were the forces that led to one of history's most protracted and legendary periods of conflict? How did they affect the three great civilizations that participated in them? And, ultimately, why did they end and what did they accomplish?

In these 36 lectures, you'll look at the "big picture" of the Crusades as an ongoing period of conflict involving Western Christendom (we would now call it Western Europe), the Byzantine Empire, and the Muslim world. From this perspective, you'll study the complex but absorbing causes of the Crusades, which include the many political, cultural, and economic changes in Western Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire. You'll examine the Crusades in terms of the specific military campaigns-the eight "canonical" Crusades that took place from 1095-1291-proclaimed to retake Jerusalem and the Holy Land from Muslim hands and return them to Christendom. You'll consider the immediate circumstances-the leaders, purposes, key battles, and degrees of success or failure-surrounding these often-monumental expeditions.

You'll also explore a wide variety of misperceptions and long-debated questions about the Crusades:

  • Did the popes preach the Crusades as a way to increase their personal power and authority?
  • Why did the members of the Fourth Crusade decide to sack Constantinople, turning the Crusades from Christian against "infidel" to Christian against Christian?
Taken together, these historically rich lectures are an opportunity to appreciate fully how Western Civilization changed in many profound ways during the Crusading era.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2003 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2003 The Great Courses

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  •  
    Tad Davis Philadelphia, PA USA 08-31-13
    Tad Davis Philadelphia, PA USA 08-31-13 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fascinating background"

    Kenneth Harl’s series of lectures forms a good basic introduction to the Crusades. Seven of them are covered in detail, from the first, with Raymond of Toulouse and Bohemond of Sicily, through the seventh, with Louis IX of France leading a disastrous invasion of Egypt. The battles are described at a high level but with enough detail to be coherent.

    But there's a great deal more in here than just the Crusades: as the title suggests, there's also quite a bit about the Era as well. One area where this is especially true is the coverage of Byzantium. Harl provides several lessons’ worth of the history of this eastern half of the Roman Empire and the leaders who pushed its boundaries even further east and north. There are times when he makes Constantinople sound like King’s Landing in The Game of Thrones. Basil the Bulgar-Slayer figures prominently in his account of Byzantine history.

    There's also quite a bit about society and technology: the rise of the merchant class, the switch from “two-field” to “three-field” agriculture, the switch from “shell building” to “frame building” in the shipyards, and the development of armored warfare, giant battle horses, and regiments of archers.

    Some things I expected to hear are skimmed over in Harl’s lectures. There wasn't much here about the “people’s crusade” and the slaughter of Jews that followed; nor much about the leaders of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. (I have to admit that much of my interest in this aspect of the story stems from the film The Kingdom of Heaven.)

    But there's much here that's new and surprising and it's well worth the listen. Harl delivers his material with energy and enthusiasm. Unfortunately he sometimes slips into a “you’re not gonna believe THIS” tone, but mostly he's speaking clearly and engagingly about a subject in which he is obviously an expert - which of course is what you'd want from a Great Course.

    I do wish the producers of the Great Courses would ditch the canned applause at the beginning and end of every lesson. The material IS good - we don't need an “applause track” to reinforce the point.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Thai 07-17-14
    Thai 07-17-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Become the local expert on the crusades."
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    I've recommend this book to all of my friends.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Henry II. After watching the Lion in Winter for the first time a year ago I am predisposed to like Henry.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Crusade IV


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    For the glory of God or of men?


    Any additional comments?

    I listened to a 2 lectures a day driving to and from work. In about a 2 weeks I had finished the course. It really paints a different sort of picture of the Catholic Church and Christians in general than what many think. I know several times more about the crusades and their impact than anyone else I know. Most people do not know, for example, that there were 8 crusades, or what the goal of any of the crusades outside the typical "retake the holy land" adventure.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mike New Jersey 05-26-14
    Mike New Jersey 05-26-14 Member Since 2013
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    "How the Crusades Changed Three Great Civilizations"
    Any additional comments?

    This lecture series is an excellent overview of the crusades. The lecturer, Professor Kenneth W. Harl, is an excellent teacher and I can highly recommended anything produced by him. If you are a lover of history he offers traditional history teaching at its best.

    This series covers the era of the crusades from their origins to the ending of the era of the "canonical" crusades after the 8th crusade of King Louis of France in North Africa. One strength of this lecture series is that the author does a great job looking at the crusades from the perspectives of all of the three great civilizations involved, Western Europe, the Byzantine (Or East Roman) Empire, and Islamic Civilization. This series gives you and incredible sense of how all three civilizations interacted during this era and were influenced and changed by the crusades.

    I had a few small disappointments in this series. The author does a very thorough job covering the first four of the eight canonical crusades and their surrounding events. He only really gives an overview by comparison of the last four crusades. As far as other crusading movements, he does give some treatment on the "children's crusades" and the crusade against the Cathars/The Albigensian crusade in Southern France but other crusading events such as the Reconquista of Spain and the conquests of the Germanic peoples and Teutonic knights in Northeastern Europe are given very little if any real treatment. I also think he could have drawn out some of the longterm implications of the crusades a little better. So this series will not offer the comprehensive overview that some might want, but for anyone interested in the topic it will definitely offer an amazing supplement in helping you understand this era in world history. He pulls out details and sides to the topic that probably many other authors miss.

    Overall I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the topic. Enjoy your travels in "outremer"!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brad San Angelo, TX, U.S. 05-16-14
    Brad San Angelo, TX, U.S. 05-16-14 Member Since 2009
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    "I really tried to like this but..."

    I am a student of history and find it fascinating to learn about eras of which I had no previous knowledge (like the crusades). I have done several of the great courses lecture series, and in general have found the professor engaging, informative, and very educational. While Professor Harl clearly has an excellent command of the details of this era of history, I found his delivery and excessive minutia to be extremely boring. It's as if he's a doctor and can't remember that his patient doesn't understand the doctor jargon being used. Clearly he knows his subject very well, he just can't recall that I may not remember the different eras of the Byzantine Empire at all. I hung in there for a great while but in the end, I just couldn't endure it longer. I can only imagine the stress of the students taking this course trying to remember the minutia delivered for the test, and trying to stay awake in the process.

    I left this course knowing little more than I started, and very little indeed will likely remain in long term memory. If you are interested in a much more engaging course I might suggest "The world was never the same, events that changed history" by Professor J. Rufus Fears or "History of the world, a global perspective" by Prof. Gregory Aldrete.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary Elizabeth Reynolds SUMMERVILLE, SC, United States 03-16-14
    Mary Elizabeth Reynolds SUMMERVILLE, SC, United States 03-16-14 Member Since 2010

    author of Lowcountry Legend's series

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    "Crusades"

    I listened to this with the hopes that I would find some kind of sense in this brutal part of history. Sadly, I came away even more disillusioned than I had been before, Although, I am sure that this professor is passionate about this subject, I would rather not have heard such atrocities told with such relish. This part of history simply doesn't appeal to me so someone else might have a different take.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Saud United States 02-05-14
    Saud United States 02-05-14 Member Since 2007

    Learn, understand, then decide whether you accept or reject.

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    "Thorough"

    This is a chronological series of lectures on the Crusades from before the first crusade up to the last attempts and the failure of Christian crusaders to take hold of the Holy Land. Illuminating, beautiful and informative.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
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