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:
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
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.
22 of 23 people found this review helpful
What made the experience of listening to The Era of the Crusades the most enjoyable?
I enjoyed how detailed and thorough the information was.
What did you like best about this story?
I truly had a complete understanding about the era as well as the Crusades.
What aspect of Professor Kenneth W. Harl’s performance would you have changed?
Uh I uh would uh have uh changed uh the way uh he uh presented uh the lecture.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
No, neither. But I was irritated because many times throughout when he came to an important point or fact he trailed off.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Any additional comments?
This is the second course I could not make my way through thanks to the "presentation" of the professor. The constant "erms", "ers", "ah", "hmm", the repeated beginning of some sentence or thought, only to then correct what the narrator just said - or sometimes even forgetting what he did say, leaving contradicting statements hovering in the air - literally made me scream out: "GET TO THE POINT".<br/>I managed about 50% of the course, then had to give up. Although I am quite familiar with the topic in general, I was hoping for some better knowledge about detail, political context and maybe even religious (historic) development. To some degree these points do shine through, so the course *IS* about what would have interested me. But the presentation is, in my eyes, highly unprofessional, unconcentrated and out-of-touch with the audience, even if that audience is invisible to the tutor.<br/><br/>I do understand that Mr Harl, as it is pointed out in the beginning of the recording, has achieved prices for "excellence of teaching". I am absolutely sure that he must have a great "life presence", because, for the life of me, his narration can not be the grounds on which the awards were given.<br/><br/>That said, I also have my problems with the content of this course. Just like with another subject I heard Mr Harl lecture about (Vikings), my impression was that he did not really *understand* what he was talking about, but put all his expertise on naming dozens, if not hundreds of characters, most of which had no relation to the topic he was just talking about (or at least he did not explain their importance for the respective detail). In a way, some parts of the course felt like:<br/>"Mrs Adam, who was the daughter of Duke Dunctington, the brother in law of King Casimir, who was known to be the later grandfather of Sir Edward Binepass, and the brother, no, sister, actually the father of the son of Mrs Kunigunde Schwafasel, met Mr Betamax, the son of Charles the unimportant, and had nothing to say to him."<br/><br/>Thanks - but, no thanks. This course did NOT help me understanding the reasons, the contexts or the (long lasting) results of the crusades.
5 of 7 people found this review helpful
I wish he went into a little bit more details about the battles that happened in the crusades but other than that it's a really great course full of information
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>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.<br/><br/>Overall I highly recommend this for anyone interested in the topic. Enjoy your travels in "outremer"!
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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.
2 of 3 people found this review helpful
Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?
The time period of the Crusades intrigues me so even though I own the "How the Crusades Changed History" course I decided to purchase "The Era of the Crusades" not just because I can't get enough of the middle ages but also because I felt like while the other course sufficiently covered the events of the Crusades, it was unspectacular in general and sometimes the difference between an average course and an excellent one (when comparing two courses that cover the same material) is the professor's style or approach.<br/><br/>I was right but I learned my lesson via the opposite of what I'd intended: Professor Harl's style made it difficult for me to really get into this course leaving me with a mixed impression of the series.<br/><br/>The professor obviously knows his stuff and I like the approach of not just jumping into the play-by-play of the first crusade but instead dedicating the first 12 lectures to provide background of the civilizations involved in the Crusades (Byzantine Empire, the Islamic Caliphates, and Western Europe) and the events that contributed to the Crusades. This allowed for good historical narrative of the Middle Ages (including origins of the Byzantine Empire, the kingdoms of western Europe, and the Islamic Caliphates as well as other nearby civilizations that may be hard to find in other courses: I was not expecting discussions on the Visigoths and Slavic people!).<br/><br/>However, the remainder of the lectures (that actually focused on the Crusades themselves) seemed to only contain that engaging historical narrative in pockets and the four main flaws in his presentation style became exceedingly distracting:<br/><br/>o Course loses its effectiveness at times because it gets “lost in the details”: the professor provides so many ancillary details on civilizations and events (that supposedly are related to the main point he is trying to make) that it doesn’t take long for your head to spin as you wonder, “What was the main point again? Wish he’d stay on the big picture!” <br/><br/>o Because the lectures felt like one long recitation of facts and events in rapid fire style without much discussion of a greater meaning/bigger picture (it appears the professor was trying to get in as much as he could in 30 minutes) this led to abrupt endings to lectures without a conclusion, “winding down” comments, or preview of the next lecture. This was very jarring at times. The sudden round of applause at times to mark the end of a lecture caused me to jump once or twice---no idea he was finished!<br/><br/>o Because the professor would seem to rush through sentences and his points, he would constantly get ahead of himself and select the wrong words resulting in him backtracking and correcting himself. We all make mistakes but this became so prevalent and consistent that it became one more distracting element of his presentation style<br/><br/>o The professor used a lot of “filler” words including “Uhh” and “Um” which became very distracting as the lectures wore on<br/><br/>While I typically like when a profesor gets "really into" his lectures and shows some emotions, with Professor Harl I feel he is better served by reigning it in at times since it is hard for him to maintain focus and at times says very odd things (in one lecture---I think 30---when explaining how incompetent a specific family of ruling Byzantine emperors were he said it would have been better off for the empire if they just killed them and their family off---ummm that's a little harsh). <br/><br/>If you are interested in the basics of what went down during the Crusades and a clear articulation of such then I would suggest purchasing "How the Crusades Changed History". If you are a fan of Professor Harl or are just interested in large amounts of facts and tidbits (that may not keep with the general narrative of the Crusades themselves) regardless of the way they are presented then "The Era of the Crusades" is your course.
I would prefer detailed information about actual fighting.
Presenter is sometimes very eager and loud while narrating. Not that pleasant beacause it shifts some attention.
Very insteresting and global point of view on crusades.
Would you try another book from The Great Courses and/or Professor Kenneth W. Harl?
This course makes me wary to trust another Great Courses subject. But I hope this is solely on an individual basis and not representative of other courses, as I've already purchased one on Alexander The Great. Which I bought before I realized this professor had decided to lecture on the popular side of history rather than on the actual history of history.
Would you ever listen to anything by The Great Courses again?
As stated before, I already bought a course on Alexander The Great. I hope not to be disappointed, but I will be approaching it with low expectations.
What does Professor Kenneth W. Harl bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
He spoke in a manner that grabbed my attention. The professor covered lots of information, much that was very interesting. However not all of the information was accurate. The professor decided to cover and lecture on the popular side of history rather than the actual history of history. This was truly disheartening, especially from a professor that has presumably studied in-depth the subject of the crusades. Except he cites nothing.
What character would you cut from The Era of the Crusades?
Modern, popular interpretation of history. This does not mean recent discoveries should be discarded, but that they should be examined with a critical eye. Because one is not necessarily connected to the other.
Any additional comments?
I'm reminded of a Hillsdale College course that would have made this lecture far more interesting and balanced. In which two professors lectured about the Spartans and Athenians and their history and contributions, from the perspective of each. I highly recommend that course if you're interested in either nation's history, by the way. But from a professor who has presumably studied in-depth the subject of the crusades I expected more, of an unbiased account.
Professor Harl's presentation here is truly masterful. It is difficult to believe how deeply he understands the subject matter.
His delivery is clearly passionate, and thoroughly articulate.
Occasionally the professor trips over words as he works to communicate sentences, but other than that... his presentation is superhuman.
Not a bad overview, I would had liked a lot more detail. As an introduction or as a refresher good, detailed analysis I personaly would look (and have bought how the crusades changed the world) else where. The crusades podcast is genuinely better for details and anecdotes,
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
spoken way too quickly with too much information to really absorb. could have been much better if it had slowed down a bit
Thoroughly recommend this to everyone interested in how we got to where we are today.