Thanks to Islamism, the subject of the Crusades has gained new currency, indeed urgency. This is the third edition of a very useful introduction to the crusading enterprise by a distinguished professor of history at Cambridge. Who were the Crusaders, what did they believe they were doing, what were the moral legitimations of their cause? These and other questions are addressed, and the book includes a helpful annotated bibliography for the reader who wants to learn more. A first THings review
The title and brevity of this book would give the impression that it is an introduction to the subject of the Crusades for readers who don't know much about them yet. Nothing could be further from the truth. It contains a great deal of useful, enlightening information that would put the subject into perspective, but if one does not have a good grounding in medieval history, or thorough basic knowledge of the Crusades already, much of the book is uninterpretable. The author brings up the names of various medieval European kings (Henry IV, etc.) without bothering to mention what countries they ruled and when they lived. You can't figure this information out from context, because the author jumps around in time and geography a lot, sometimes three or more times in the same paragraph. He similarly brings up historical events that to the lay reader are completely obscure, and doesn't give any indication as to what they were. I can't tell if this book was written by an intellectual who is so far into his field that he has no idea what the average, well-educated reader doesn't know, or if it is just not intended for novices. In either case, before you can reap the benefits of this book, you need to find a basic book on the Crusades and educate yourself with that one first.