hits counter The First Crusade: A New History - Ebook PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The First Crusade: A New History

Availability: Ready to download

On the last Tuesday of November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech that launched the First Crusade. His words set Christendom afire. Some 100,000 men, from knights to paupers, took up the call--the largest mobilization of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire. Now, in The First Crusade, Thomas Asbridge offers a gripping account of a titanic three-ye On the last Tuesday of November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech that launched the First Crusade. His words set Christendom afire. Some 100,000 men, from knights to paupers, took up the call--the largest mobilization of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire. Now, in The First Crusade, Thomas Asbridge offers a gripping account of a titanic three-year adventure filled with miraculous victories, greedy princes and barbarity on a vast scale. Readers follow the crusaders from their mobilization in Europe (where great waves of anti-Semitism resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jews), to their arrival in Constantinople, an exotic, opulent city--ten times the size of any city in Europe--that bedazzled the Europeans. Featured in vivid detail are the siege of Nicaea and the pivotal battle for Antioch, the single most important military engagement of the entire expedition, where the crusaders, in desperate straits, routed a larger and better-equipped Muslim army. Through all this, the crusaders were driven on by intense religious devotion, convinced that their struggle would earn them the reward of eternal paradise in Heaven. But when a hardened core finally reached Jerusalem in 1099 they unleashed an unholy wave of brutality, slaughtering thousands of Muslims--men, women, and children--all in the name of Christianity. The First Crusade marked a watershed in relations between Islam and the West, a conflict that set these two world religions on a course toward deep-seated animosity and enduring enmity. The chilling reverberations of this earth-shattering clash still echo in the world today.


Compare

On the last Tuesday of November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech that launched the First Crusade. His words set Christendom afire. Some 100,000 men, from knights to paupers, took up the call--the largest mobilization of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire. Now, in The First Crusade, Thomas Asbridge offers a gripping account of a titanic three-ye On the last Tuesday of November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech that launched the First Crusade. His words set Christendom afire. Some 100,000 men, from knights to paupers, took up the call--the largest mobilization of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire. Now, in The First Crusade, Thomas Asbridge offers a gripping account of a titanic three-year adventure filled with miraculous victories, greedy princes and barbarity on a vast scale. Readers follow the crusaders from their mobilization in Europe (where great waves of anti-Semitism resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jews), to their arrival in Constantinople, an exotic, opulent city--ten times the size of any city in Europe--that bedazzled the Europeans. Featured in vivid detail are the siege of Nicaea and the pivotal battle for Antioch, the single most important military engagement of the entire expedition, where the crusaders, in desperate straits, routed a larger and better-equipped Muslim army. Through all this, the crusaders were driven on by intense religious devotion, convinced that their struggle would earn them the reward of eternal paradise in Heaven. But when a hardened core finally reached Jerusalem in 1099 they unleashed an unholy wave of brutality, slaughtering thousands of Muslims--men, women, and children--all in the name of Christianity. The First Crusade marked a watershed in relations between Islam and the West, a conflict that set these two world religions on a course toward deep-seated animosity and enduring enmity. The chilling reverberations of this earth-shattering clash still echo in the world today.

30 review for The First Crusade: A New History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Suzannah

    ***5 years of rigorous crusader studies later*** Yeah nah IDK what I was thinking in my former review. I was wrong and spoke from ignorance. Asbridge's book is great. He presents a much more nuanced and accurate picture than I was able to grasp the first time I read the story, depicting crusader motivations as a complex and historically accurate blend of faith, ambition, and greed (the latter clearly stated to be a response to the dreadful privations suffered on the expedition). Where he debates ***5 years of rigorous crusader studies later*** Yeah nah IDK what I was thinking in my former review. I was wrong and spoke from ignorance. Asbridge's book is great. He presents a much more nuanced and accurate picture than I was able to grasp the first time I read the story, depicting crusader motivations as a complex and historically accurate blend of faith, ambition, and greed (the latter clearly stated to be a response to the dreadful privations suffered on the expedition). Where he debates the claims of eyewitnesses (mostly Anna Comnena), it's based on solid evidence including from other eyewitnesses. I still have minor areas of disagreement with Asbridge and find his narrative to be slightly hyperbolised in places, but after 5 years of near constant study including reading many of the important works of scholarship this book is based on (eg France' VICTORY IN THE EAST and Riley-Smith's FIRST CRUSADE AND THE IDEA OF CRUSADING), I'm now in a position to appreciate the formidable scholarship and academic clout this book has. It's truly uncommon to find a work on the crusades that marries the latest academic developments with popular readability. Highly recommended. -- Thomas Asbridge's history of the First Crusade is an odd mixture of informative and unhelpful. His work constructing a cohesive narrative from hundreds of primary sources and welding it into accessible, gripping prose is to be commended. Ultimately, however, my distrust of the author's viewpoint made it difficult to trust anything he said. This began with Asbridge's peculiar characterisation of Christianity as a pacifist religion and his insistence that the Crusades were impelled by no particular Muslim threat (completely ignoring the battle of Manzikert, and the fact that Europe 's best defence against Islam, the eastern Roman empire, was known to be steadily losing ground to the Turks). Asbridge loses further credibility with me for the sheer number of times in which he claims "Although eyewitness accounts tell us that X or Y happened, the truth is actually quite different." I'm grateful for a healthy amount of skepticism, and I'm sure many of Asbridge's alternate interpretations of events are valuable. However, many of these assertions seemed forced, especially in the face of substantial eyewitness insistence to the contrary. This leads to my major gripe with this book, which is Asbridge's unwillingness to accept any other explanations for the Crusader princes' disputes other than cold ambition. He focuses primarily on Raymond of Toulouse, apparently determined to convince us that Raymond was as blatantly power-hungry as, say, Bohemond. This is possible on the facts, but it is also more than possible that Raymond's insistence on ceding Antioch to the Byzantines stemmed from a fear of offending heaven by breaking covenant with the emperor. But to Asbridge's modern mind, such fear can only be outward, a mask for politicking and ambition. Similarly, he implies that Duke Godfrey only held back from claiming kingship of Jerusalem, taking the title of Defender of the Holy Sepulchre, because that was the only condition under which he could get lordship of the city. Does he imagine that to a medieval mind, the argument that it would be ridiculous for any mere man to claim Christ's capital might have no weight at all? Asbridge's First Crusade is first and foremost a tale of political ambition and rivalry, in which faith plays very little part. Accordingly, I find it very difficult to trust his version of events as being any less partisan than any of the primary sources he dissects. Nevertheless, this book was a gripping and impassioned retelling of the history, thoroughly enjoyable, enriched by the author's personal familiarity with the landscape in which it took place.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    Having read Sir Steven Runciman's three volume History of the Crusades, I approached Thomas Asbridge's The First Crusade: A New History with some trepidation. I needn't have: It was an excellent, well organized, and well researched work that was well written in the bargain. The First Crusade was the only one that could be said to have succeeded. Their goal was to rescue Jerusalem, the scene of Christ's crucifixion and burial, from the Turks. This they accomplished, and they and their followers in Having read Sir Steven Runciman's three volume History of the Crusades, I approached Thomas Asbridge's The First Crusade: A New History with some trepidation. I needn't have: It was an excellent, well organized, and well researched work that was well written in the bargain. The First Crusade was the only one that could be said to have succeeded. Their goal was to rescue Jerusalem, the scene of Christ's crucifixion and burial, from the Turks. This they accomplished, and they and their followers in the next two centuries set up a series of "Crusader Kingdoms" that managed to last ... for a while anyhow. Interestingly, very few of the survivors managed to return to Europe in triumph. Far more returned impoverished and shorn of much of the power they enjoyed before they left for the Holy Land. They were, for the most part, brave men -- though not immune from a taste for treachery, greed, and envy -- and they succeeded where the later Crusades failed. But then, that was all before the Turks found a leader in the Kurd Saladin.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joseph

    This is a general review of the history of the First Crusade, which was the expedition sent from Western Europe under the auspices of the Church of Rome, to capture and reclaim Jerusalem from her Muslim rulers. The flow of the narrative works rather well. Not too much time is spent on particularities of battles, but rather a broad picture is given so that the reader experiences the major points of contention in each skirmish, and the effects and aftereffects on the Crusading armies. Likewise, wit This is a general review of the history of the First Crusade, which was the expedition sent from Western Europe under the auspices of the Church of Rome, to capture and reclaim Jerusalem from her Muslim rulers. The flow of the narrative works rather well. Not too much time is spent on particularities of battles, but rather a broad picture is given so that the reader experiences the major points of contention in each skirmish, and the effects and aftereffects on the Crusading armies. Likewise, with an obviously huge cast, the author focuses in on a handful of Crusader princes, the Byzantine Emperor, and the Pope. We learn a bit about each man, but are not drowned in historical minutiae. The author makes great pains to stress that the original intent of the Crusades was indeed a holy one, but through hardship and exposure to new lands and the enticement of power, many of the Crusaders subjugated their religious fervor into the expropriation of power. Primarily, this books is about the Westerners, with some digression to the Byzantine Emperor and his court. The opposing Muslims war lords, however, are not fully explored. I think this does a great disservice to the book, and although the Muslims are not caricatures, they are not fully human, either. Their frame of mind is not explored, nor much of the history of how Islam became the dominant religious force in the area, nor much about how the various Islamic states, and their shifting alliances, came to be Additionally, the author grazes over the differences between Latin and Greek Christians. At the time of the First Crusade, in 1098, the Great Schism was less than fifty years in the past. Instead of pointing merely to the increase in papal authority and ambition, and the rather minute differences in liturgical and spiritual life, a more thorough discussion about the Schism and political, as well as the theological, ramifications of it would have been helpful, particularly as the Crusaders left behind a few Latin bishops and patriarchs in place of the indigenous Greek/Byzantine ones. The concluding chapter rightly notes that the Crusade became a benchmark in later Christian/Islamic relations, but it was for Latin and Greek Christians, as well. Thankfully, this is not a hagiography of the Crusaders, and we are not spared the atrocities committed by the Crusaders in the name of their God. They were definitely a bloody bunch, with no problems massacring the elderly, women, children, and infants in the cities they overran. The bloodbath committed in Jerusalem is particularly revolting. Although the Muslim treatment of people they conquered is not mentioned, in warfare, both sides were brutal and savage, as it seems to be the way war was waged in those times. Worth checking into if you'd like a brief history of the First Crusade. The book is actually just 339 pages, the rest being a glossary, footnotes, and selected bibliography.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Helen Callaghan

    Reading The First Crusade is a bit like watching a horror movie - starving Crusaders eat the rotting bodies of their enemies at Marrat al-Nu'man, scheme in Macchiavellian fashion against one another, experience fantastical visions and find +5 Holy Lances buried under church floors, shoot their enemies' heads into cities by catapult, die of injuries sustained enduring trial by fire. Entire ships of new recruits appear - 1500 Danes, for instance - and within days they have died of plague, to a man Reading The First Crusade is a bit like watching a horror movie - starving Crusaders eat the rotting bodies of their enemies at Marrat al-Nu'man, scheme in Macchiavellian fashion against one another, experience fantastical visions and find +5 Holy Lances buried under church floors, shoot their enemies' heads into cities by catapult, die of injuries sustained enduring trial by fire. Entire ships of new recruits appear - 1500 Danes, for instance - and within days they have died of plague, to a man. It's all a lot like the movie version of The Lord of the Rings, except it's much, much harder to tell the good guys from the orcs. The book begins with an analysis of why over 100,000 people would, over two years, suddenly drop everything and go haring off across the world to storm a city they had never seen - and even more miraculously, keep at it in spite of disease, starvation, and constant peril of death or enslavement. Lots of work has previously suggested that Crusading fever was little more than a cynical attempt by younger sons and disenfranchised knights to engage in looting and land-grabbing. And of course this is true in part. But Asbridge argues that it is also true that as many entrenched and secure nobles and heads of families also took up the cross. As to why, he makes a convincing case that "an authentically spiritual age" with its Christian message of pacifism, ascetism, and self-sacrifice was absolutely at odds with the vicious and violent realpolitik of medieval Europe. To survive and thrive, the knightly class could only engage in behaviour calculated to lead to damnation. The extremely controlling behaviour over sex, religious observances, and every single facet of life meant that this fear of Hell was something shared by the whole population, from the kings downwards. By synthesising warfare and religion into the concept of Holy War, the Church offered the spiritually haunted population a means of reconciling the opposing poles of their existence. Not even the Pope could have foreseen how explosive this formulation would prove to be to people living in the constant shadow of damnation and under threat of an imminent apocalypse. Certainly the Greeks and Muslims didn't, and a sense of their shock and horror comes vividly alive. If I had a criticism, it would be that I would have liked to have seen more material from the Muslim side and their strategic decisions - sources something beyond "HOLY CRAP THESE PEOPLE ARE NUTS!" as translated from medieval Arabic. Judging from the extract of his latest which I read late last year, he's way ahead of me on this score, so looking forward to starting on that soon.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David

    This is just incredible, but to me at least completely understandable. A siege mentality helps. The Latin princes had one object in mind, which was the conquest of Jerusalem. Nothing else mattered. They set out without any real preparation, their eyes fixed on that one goal, travelled across the known world making it up as they went along and against all the odds attained their objective, though it was always a case of touch and go. The personalities that drove this venture put our petty conside This is just incredible, but to me at least completely understandable. A siege mentality helps. The Latin princes had one object in mind, which was the conquest of Jerusalem. Nothing else mattered. They set out without any real preparation, their eyes fixed on that one goal, travelled across the known world making it up as they went along and against all the odds attained their objective, though it was always a case of touch and go. The personalities that drove this venture put our petty considerations to shame. They squabbled about the division of spoils before they even knew the outcome of any battle, and the whole thing reads like a cross between a Boy’s Own story and some Pythonesque escapade. You never know whether to laugh or cry. But you can’t argue with the fact that these brutal, grasping bastards were driven also by a vision that shaped their endeavours and sanctified their aims, in their own eyes at least. The Battle of Antioch for me says it all. Initially the First Crusaders were worn out and starving in their siege of this entrance to Palestine, although they eventually prevailed, only to find the tables turned almost immediately. Once they’d taken over the city the Abbesid relief force from Egypt put them to siege in their turn and they were forced to make a quick counter-attack and win the day; a miracle, in fact. I’ll write more on this later. I love these guys. You can crap on about the status quo but they broke it, because they knew the goal. It was a geographical location. Nothing is written, if you know where to go and if you are invited in.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jack

    A call by Pope Urban II and thousands of Europeans, Franks for the most part, pack up and head of to Jerusalem. I still find it amazing to read about the Crusaders. It all started when Alexius I Comnenus asked for Western Europe’s assistance against the rising threat of Turkish expansion. The Byzantines expected fund and manpower to fill the empire’s coffers and legions. The empire needed both after the disastrous battle of Manzikert. What they got instead was an independent army heading their w A call by Pope Urban II and thousands of Europeans, Franks for the most part, pack up and head of to Jerusalem. I still find it amazing to read about the Crusaders. It all started when Alexius I Comnenus asked for Western Europe’s assistance against the rising threat of Turkish expansion. The Byzantines expected fund and manpower to fill the empire’s coffers and legions. The empire needed both after the disastrous battle of Manzikert. What they got instead was an independent army heading their way. And that army would not fight for the empire but for its own holdings. Bohemund, Raymond, Tancred, and many other Frankish and Norman adventurers were there to make their own mark. It took the crusader army over three years to reach Jerusalem. Nicea, Antioch, Edessa, and many other cities and counties had to fall on the way. Finally Jerusalem was taken and sacked sadistically. This book described the areas that other texts tend to gloss over. Discussion on massacres of Jews during the travels has been covered in many other books but not as extensively. The author also described how the crusader army transformed into a veteran army after three years of constant battles and siege warfare. Although outnumbered, the crusader veterans were a crack army that trounced many superior foes. After Jerusalem fell, this army easily destroyed a Fatimid relief army. The other subject I found very enlightening was the numerous dissensions over territories, cities taken, and plunder. The crusader army was not a unified command under one general but a composite force under many nobles each with their own ambitions and jealousies. One can only imagine if things were different. The army had not massacred thousands. The army was united under a single leader....hopefully an ethical one. The crusaders had remained under Byzantine control. A few good questions. An excellent book for an exciting era.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joshi

    From it's humble beginnings as the call to arms for a few hundred knights to venture East in support of Byzantium to the eventual odyssey of almost hundred thousand men across the known world it became, this book gives an excellent overview on this truly astonishing undertaking. It deals with why it happened, what the individual motivations for the pilgrims were and how it was conducted, the leadership, the logistics, the journey and the difficulties and of course the crimes committed. It's a marv From it's humble beginnings as the call to arms for a few hundred knights to venture East in support of Byzantium to the eventual odyssey of almost hundred thousand men across the known world it became, this book gives an excellent overview on this truly astonishing undertaking. It deals with why it happened, what the individual motivations for the pilgrims were and how it was conducted, the leadership, the logistics, the journey and the difficulties and of course the crimes committed. It's a marvelous window into a time whose customs and ideals seem so alien to us nowadays Really good book, 100% recommended

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jerome

    A clear, balanced and comprehensive narrative history of the First Crusade. The book is well-researched and fast-paced. Asbridge argues that the Crusaders took so long to reach Jerusalem after the victory at Antioch due to personal ambitions and divisions. He also looks at what it meant to be a crusader and their varying beliefs and motives, as well as the medieval world of the Crusades. The author also looks at how the idea of the crusade developed, the impact of that the popes had, how the Byza A clear, balanced and comprehensive narrative history of the First Crusade. The book is well-researched and fast-paced. Asbridge argues that the Crusaders took so long to reach Jerusalem after the victory at Antioch due to personal ambitions and divisions. He also looks at what it meant to be a crusader and their varying beliefs and motives, as well as the medieval world of the Crusades. The author also looks at how the idea of the crusade developed, the impact of that the popes had, how the Byzantines pursued their aims, and how relations between the Europeans and the Byzantines soured after Antioch. Asbridge argues that the crusaders were less motivated by a hatred of Islam than by a desire to die in battle and reach heaven. His account of the winter at Antioch is particularly vivid. The book is not really a military history, and some readers may not be satisfied by Asbridge’s discussion of strategy, tactics, or weaponry. He also writes that the Islamic and Christian worlds were generally at peace before 1095, even though the Byzantine Empire and Latin princes in the Holy Land seem to be exceptions to this. Some of the early chapters also seem a bit convoluted. A broad, accessible and well-written work.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    Asbridge writes in a style that not only makes his work palatable to those wary of history books, but also combines a compelling narrative style with excellent scholarship. One barely notices they're learning from an incredibly well-informed historian as they plow through the book. He also provides a fantastic list of primary and secondary sources for those interested in delving deeper into the first crusade. Asbridge also points to evidence that is contrary to several traditional beliefs about Asbridge writes in a style that not only makes his work palatable to those wary of history books, but also combines a compelling narrative style with excellent scholarship. One barely notices they're learning from an incredibly well-informed historian as they plow through the book. He also provides a fantastic list of primary and secondary sources for those interested in delving deeper into the first crusade. Asbridge also points to evidence that is contrary to several traditional beliefs about the crusade and its participants, earning its moniker "A New History." The only criticism I have of the book is that the ending seems anti-climatic. The fall and initial defense of Jerusalem is covered in a couple of short chapters (especially compared to the siege of Antioch). Granted, Asbridge sees the latter as the pivotal point in the crusade, but the story just sort of falls off at the end. I would like to see Asbridge do the other crusades as well.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mark Blackham

    A brilliant book and even a fun read. Asbridge knows his stuff and writes in beautiful prose. But, like most books on the subject, it is a little eurocentric. One of his major themes is to emphasize the intelligence and cunning of the knights, a view that is debatable. Nonetheless, he offers considerable insight into the lives of Crusaders. While there can be little doubt the Crusaders were good warriors, I feel Asbridge under-rates the contribution of the Byzantines to the war effort. They supp A brilliant book and even a fun read. Asbridge knows his stuff and writes in beautiful prose. But, like most books on the subject, it is a little eurocentric. One of his major themes is to emphasize the intelligence and cunning of the knights, a view that is debatable. Nonetheless, he offers considerable insight into the lives of Crusaders. While there can be little doubt the Crusaders were good warriors, I feel Asbridge under-rates the contribution of the Byzantines to the war effort. They supplied vital intelligence on the lay of the land, the fighting habits of Turks, guides and advisors, as well as war machines and materials (including Greek fire). Still, this is one of the best on the subject.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Stuart Chambers

    To appreciate that allot of history is simply ‘myth-history’ you need to read about how the man who unleashed the First Crusade (Pope Urban 11) used propaganda to portray Muslims as brutal oppressors when in reality Islam had showed more tolerance to other religions than Catholic Christendom in the preceding centuries. During the years 1000 to 1300 CE Catholic Europe and Islam went from being occasional combatants to completely entrenched opponents and the chilling reverberations of this seismic To appreciate that allot of history is simply ‘myth-history’ you need to read about how the man who unleashed the First Crusade (Pope Urban 11) used propaganda to portray Muslims as brutal oppressors when in reality Islam had showed more tolerance to other religions than Catholic Christendom in the preceding centuries. During the years 1000 to 1300 CE Catholic Europe and Islam went from being occasional combatants to completely entrenched opponents and the chilling reverberations of this seismic shift still echo in the world today … Everybody should read this book!!!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Aleks

    I really enjoyed this book. It reads like one of Roger Crowley's books. It tracks the first crusade from its beginning to its end; it tells the story from the point of view of its leaders and influential figures. As someone with an interest in the crusades but limited knowledge in this field, this book was satisfying. I learned a lot and was also entertained. The author supports his findings with a lot of primary and secondary information. He also does a great job of driving home his theory over I really enjoyed this book. It reads like one of Roger Crowley's books. It tracks the first crusade from its beginning to its end; it tells the story from the point of view of its leaders and influential figures. As someone with an interest in the crusades but limited knowledge in this field, this book was satisfying. I learned a lot and was also entertained. The author supports his findings with a lot of primary and secondary information. He also does a great job of driving home his theory over and over which is the crusaders' motivation of greed and piety. He presents the leading figures as complicated people. They feel no guilt; they want to save their souls but have no problem with butchering innocent people, plundering conquered lands, and claiming conquered lands to increase their own influence. It seems obvious that their desire to save their souls is compromised by their barbaric acts yet from the telling of Thomas Asbridge, none of the characters feel the same. This is most obvious once the crusaders conquer Jerusalem. After a day of plundering and butchering, the crusaders go to pray at Christianity's holiest sites while covered in blood. Meanwhile, a little before the fall of Jerusalem, Tancred, one of the figures constantly seeking to increase his own influence by conquering, visits Jerusalem at night and overlooks the city from a hill; he says that he could die right there and be in peace. This type of complexity is so rarely seen in fictional characters; authors try to capture this uniqueness and often fail. The characters are layered and interesting. The author does a good job of supporting his vision with facts. His vision is completely clear and has convinced me. His use of maps throughout the book is helpful and so is the glossary + list of characters. The story trudges along slowly at the beginning but I suspect it is not the author's fault and more likely my own; I read a fictional novel right before this book and the change of pace required me to adjust. Once I settled in, the story seemed to glide. I would absolutely recommend this book to fans of history and will be reading Thomas Asbridge's books in the future.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mark Durrell

    An enthralling and honest depiction of the First Crusade.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Erika

    This is going to be a curious review for me. I want to begin by saying: I have not finished reading this book. There are good reasons for this. The first is: I’m not too big on history. I need a lot of context for my historical facts otherwise, try as hard as I might I forget everything I hear or read. That’s not say I don’t like history--I like it quite a bit--I just need to get it in small doses. The second is: Thomas Asbridge’s The First Crusade: A New History is not particularly dry or boring This is going to be a curious review for me. I want to begin by saying: I have not finished reading this book. There are good reasons for this. The first is: I’m not too big on history. I need a lot of context for my historical facts otherwise, try as hard as I might I forget everything I hear or read. That’s not say I don’t like history--I like it quite a bit--I just need to get it in small doses. The second is: Thomas Asbridge’s The First Crusade: A New History is not particularly dry or boring, it’s actually really fascinating and easier for me to read than a textbook (of the historical variety); it puts things in context. Historical figures are put into roles as characters, given motives and backstories, there are maps, illustrations, and full color photo panels of medieval artwork and modern day buildings that were once pivotal during the Crusades. It’s not quite an historical fiction novel, but I’m invested in the text anyway. If this were a historical fiction novel I can promise you I’d be finished by now. Since it isn’t, I think I’ll continue reading it as I have been: in small doses when I get the chance and not all in one go. I really want to understand the facts and research Asbridge has worked so hard to put together. Plowing through this would be unfair to the history and do an injustice to why I wanted to read it in the first place: to learn. There is a glossary and a chronology in the back of the book; for the die-hard historical fan there is even a bibliography and end notes to support Asbridge’s book and encourage further reading. My favorite so far is the chronology. It sort of sums up without explanation the very main points of Asbridge’s text along the timeline of the Crusades. The dates orient a reader who may be lost or not quite sure on some events, even after having finished. Once a section is completely read, you can go back to the chronology and see then all of the context and background that went into, for example, “The Council of Piacenza” (p. 342). In short: you can feel that you’ve learned something and walk away with a studious understanding of certain events and dates. Even though I’m reading this book from a more curious background when it comes to history, I’d still recommend it to readers interested in a real academic approach to the Crusades. All readers will appreciate the sincerity and depth of Asbridge’s narrative and feel at ease with his accessible prose and intelligent, articulate writing. I’m enjoying it a lot, despite reading it in bits and pieces. I’d like to think I’m not losing any momentum, but it’s such a wonderful read it would be hard to put down and never pick it up again. With that in mind, yes, I will eventually finish. Asbridge’s book is exciting and he does an excellent job infusing anticipation into his text and in turn, the reader will become anxious for more. The photos and illustrations are compelling and do help root the historical events to places and things we can see and perhaps one day, visit. I’ve found The First Crusade: A New History to be fascinating and will continue to read it. I suggest if you’re interested at all in the Crusades, you give Asbridge a chance! Thanks to Simon & Schuster UK for my review copy. :)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Abigail Hartman

    Asbridge's "The First Crusade" hovers around a two- or three-star rating for me. He does of course have a particular interpretation of the crusaders' motives - that they were driven not so much by a desire to defend Christendom against the Muslim advance, but by their own (selfish?) desire to purify their souls from the guilt of unjust bloodshed. I don't have much of a problem with this reading; I feel there were many motives that impelled men to go on crusade, and Asbridge's is probably a legit Asbridge's "The First Crusade" hovers around a two- or three-star rating for me. He does of course have a particular interpretation of the crusaders' motives - that they were driven not so much by a desire to defend Christendom against the Muslim advance, but by their own (selfish?) desire to purify their souls from the guilt of unjust bloodshed. I don't have much of a problem with this reading; I feel there were many motives that impelled men to go on crusade, and Asbridge's is probably a legitimate, even if it is not necessarily the only viable, theory. He also attempts to empathize with this motivation, to put himself in the crusaders' shoes and not pass judgment. Unfortunately, there are a number of things that get in the way of such attempts. One is the presence of behavior on the part of the crusaders which, I believe, is or should be incompatible with any of their more pious motives: however you slice it, there was a great deal of self-serving on the part of the Frankish princes, and I continue to fail to see how any historian can look at the 1099 massacre in Jerusalem and not feel some qualms about the crusading ideal. (In that regard, I suppose a disclaimer is called for: however much I may try to understand the crusaders' motives, I find very little to admire in the Crusades. I believe they were driven by a wrong theology and were antithetical to both the mission of the Church and the idea of Christian life. I guess I'm a bit of a Runciman.) With all of these things before him (and he does discuss the Franks' failings at nearly every turn), Asbridge seems to dither between dramatizing the horrible, monstrous, selfish actions of the crusaders, and trying to make sense of them and fit together aspects (like piety and greed) that it would be better to leave disparate. His struggle is only made worse by another element of the book that made me groan: Asbridge's overly-dramatic style. The First Crusade was a "titanic" expedition that made Europe and the Middle East "avowed and entrenched opponents, and the chilling reverberations of this seismic shift still echo in the world today" (2). The whole book is like this; everything seems to demand an adjective. On the one hand, this may make the book more accessible for a wider audience. On the other, it is a little bit ridiculous, and sometimes even requires that Asbridge back-pedal on some of his claims. Most significantly, while he hints early on (and the added subtitle of my edition declares) that the First Crusade constitutes "the roots of conflict between Christianity and Islam," in his conclusion he has to temper that by saying that in fact the First Crusade could easily have been just a passing war. Later events - sometimes much later - were much more influential in hardening the lines of conflict. A nice dramatic subtitle like this may attract more curious readers, but it doesn't seem to help dispel myths and present a clear picture of the First Crusade. All that aside, "The First Crusade" does have good information under its melodramatic style and offers not only a readable overview for just about anyone, but a reasonable interpretation of the motives behind the events. It should simply be taken with a grain of salt, and perhaps some other historians' interpretations as well.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Evan Leach

    This was a fascinating depiction of the First Crusade. I'm a bit surprised at how few ratings/reviews this book has generated; this is not an academic analysis of the theological differences between Christianity and Islam (as the title implies), but a visceral description of the original crusade. That doesn't mean the history is anything but top-notch - Asbridge has done his homework - but he's also a very strong writer and does a great job describing a truly historic event. While the later crus This was a fascinating depiction of the First Crusade. I'm a bit surprised at how few ratings/reviews this book has generated; this is not an academic analysis of the theological differences between Christianity and Islam (as the title implies), but a visceral description of the original crusade. That doesn't mean the history is anything but top-notch - Asbridge has done his homework - but he's also a very strong writer and does a great job describing a truly historic event. While the later crusades were all pretty much debacles to a greater or lesser degree, the first was a tremendous success (at least initially...and from the European perspective). This was the crusade that actually succeeded in capturing the Holy Land...but only after overcoming almost impossible odds. The First Crusade featured a number of memorable characters and some truly incredible events, from the battle at Antioch to the siege of Jerusalem and much more. I'm not an expert on this subject, and haven't read any other books on the First Crusade, but I think you'd be hard pressed to find a better single volume presentation than Asbridge's impressive work in this book. 4 stars, recommended!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    The First Crusade: A New History: The Roots of Conflict Between Christianity and Islam “A detailed account of the first crusade. Sanctioned by the Pope himself. This group of dedicated people make their way from Europe all the way to Jerusalem. Fighting saracens on the way and winning some incredible victories against all odds. The repercussions of this momentous event are probably being felt even today, having possibly caused an unsurmountable rift between two of the world's dominant religions.” The First Crusade: A New History: The Roots of Conflict Between Christianity and Islam “A detailed account of the first crusade. Sanctioned by the Pope himself. This group of dedicated people make their way from Europe all the way to Jerusalem. Fighting saracens on the way and winning some incredible victories against all odds. The repercussions of this momentous event are probably being felt even today, having possibly caused an unsurmountable rift between two of the world's dominant religions.” The impact of the first crusade cannot be understated. The event itself seems to be a bit of a dark mark in Christian history--a savage time when people were willing to kill other people for their religious beliefs. “...to the men writing about the crusades, some forms of violence – holy war carried out in the name of Got – were acceptable.” On the question of violence perpetrated against the so called infidels “…the moral and spiritual code that governed medieval European society differed vasgtly from that which prevails today. Thus, before judging the nature of crusading violence, we must remember that in the Middle Ages, an era of endemic savagery, warfare was regulated by a particular, medieval sense of morality.” The most significant difference between then and now was the religious/spiritual force that drove the crusaders on their quest. It may seem strange to a majority of modern folk that Christians of this time period took the Crusades as a path to salvation for those who participated. Tens of thousands, Christian and non-Christian, soldiers and noncombatants lost their lives during this first crusade. They suffered from disease, starvation, infighting amongst themselves, enemy attacks. Men and women, rich and poor, from every country in Europe give up all they knew for this quest because “… those who “took up the cross” were recipients of both spiritual and earthly rewards. The spiritual reward was the indulgence, or the forgiveness, of sins. The earthly rewards included plunder from conquest, forgiveness of debts, and freedom from taxes, as well as fame and political power. Crusaders did not only fight for control of the Holy Land; they also worked to secure the Church’s power in Europe.” What really struck me is that after almost 1,000 years (we’re talking about an event that took place at the end of the 11th century), are that parts of this book could have been ripped from today’s news headlines. I am firmly convinced, people don’t change. Greed/Power/Self-Righteousness – a tale as old as time.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Taymaz Azimi

    This book made me very happy: it kept me 'entertained' without sacrificing any scholarly attributes of its subject. Asbridge is good like that generally, but I think this is the best example of his abilities in narrating history. The integration of sources that he used in the text is very smooth and through it, he gives the many chronicles of the First Crusade a new life. The reader really relates to Raymond of Aguilers or the unknown author of Gesta Francorum who had experienced the trials of t This book made me very happy: it kept me 'entertained' without sacrificing any scholarly attributes of its subject. Asbridge is good like that generally, but I think this is the best example of his abilities in narrating history. The integration of sources that he used in the text is very smooth and through it, he gives the many chronicles of the First Crusade a new life. The reader really relates to Raymond of Aguilers or the unknown author of Gesta Francorum who had experienced the trials of this expedition first hand and for that, I think Asbridge deserves praise. His way of mentioning them is also quite interesting; at many points, he doesn't name them so the unfamiliar reader with the literature of the First Crusade might think there are many different eye witness accounts which makes the narrative of the book even more lively and entertaining. Moreover, Asbridge's middle-ground position between the view that Crusade was an absolutely devotional endeavour and the one taking it to be motivated by nothing than greed is refreshing. He is, of course, a follower of Runciman in seeing Crusade as an invasion and seeing the Islamic side of, at least, the first few decades of the Outremer as being on 'the right side' but his views on this are not at all too bold either. I did enjoy reading this book and considering the fact that it was written for the general public, I should say it really is an astonishing achievement by Thomas Asbridge.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chase Parsley

    Medieval historian Thomas Asbridge, sifting through multiple interpretations of the Crusades, successfully writes a riveting and very well-balanced summary of one of history's most epic tales. Pope Urban II's 1095 speech at Clermont, the siege of Antioch and the "finding" of the Holy Lance, the personalities of the fractal Crusader leaders, the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus, the bloodbath conquest of Jerusalem, the final defensive stand in Ascalon, and the aftermath of it all is told in sup Medieval historian Thomas Asbridge, sifting through multiple interpretations of the Crusades, successfully writes a riveting and very well-balanced summary of one of history's most epic tales. Pope Urban II's 1095 speech at Clermont, the siege of Antioch and the "finding" of the Holy Lance, the personalities of the fractal Crusader leaders, the Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus, the bloodbath conquest of Jerusalem, the final defensive stand in Ascalon, and the aftermath of it all is told in superb fashion. At times you really feel like you were there and the Crusaders are made human. Understanding the First Crusade is an essential piece of the puzzle of history, and this book wisely analyzes its many angles. An excellent book to read and it will give you both shivers and moments of enlightenment.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Leif

    A good overview. A "general" history of an event so widely written about in such varying degrees of scholarship, Asbridge's "new" (2004) book will no doubt rankle many familiar with Crusader lore. I found his easy writing and lack of academic pretentions to be a big plus. It is said he overlooks certain things, minimizes and maximizes others...so, your average history book. Keep in mind, the scholarship is there but it is not as evident as other histories and that in itself can make it seem like y A good overview. A "general" history of an event so widely written about in such varying degrees of scholarship, Asbridge's "new" (2004) book will no doubt rankle many familiar with Crusader lore. I found his easy writing and lack of academic pretentions to be a big plus. It is said he overlooks certain things, minimizes and maximizes others...so, your average history book. Keep in mind, the scholarship is there but it is not as evident as other histories and that in itself can make it seem like you are just reading somebody's ideas on the Crusade rather than actual, verifiable history. One should note that at the time of this writing, a LARGE amount of citations from the Wikipedia entry on the First Crusade are taken from this book. Do with that intelligence what you will.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Guera25

    It was short, as history books go, but it's an excellent introductory volume for someone interested in the Crusades, and its enthusiastic, engaging style leavens what could be a weighty, bitter subject. I would've liked to know more about some of the principals involved--Raymond of Toulouse, Bohemond, and Godfrey of Bouillion, for instance--but I suspect that if he had provided more detail, the book would've been derailed from its intended purpose, which was a brief exploration of the First Cru It was short, as history books go, but it's an excellent introductory volume for someone interested in the Crusades, and its enthusiastic, engaging style leavens what could be a weighty, bitter subject. I would've liked to know more about some of the principals involved--Raymond of Toulouse, Bohemond, and Godfrey of Bouillion, for instance--but I suspect that if he had provided more detail, the book would've been derailed from its intended purpose, which was a brief exploration of the First Crusade and how it contributed to the modern conflict between Christianity and Islam. That being so, I would be delighted if he were to turn his hand, proverbial pen at the ready, to a more comprehensive study of either the siege of Antioch or the one at Jerusalem itself.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Piotr

    So excellent, that I've just transferred Thomas Asbridge another book on crusades to the very top of my to-read list. I'd say: exemplary historical writing, benefiting so much from an obvious author's admiration to Levant, it's history, places and peoples. Wise, thoroughly researched, extremely well-placed in time. It was one of those "clenched fists" reading - another bunch of "Franks" confronting "Infidels". Again and again, and again - same motivation and purpose, so similar rhetoric on all s So excellent, that I've just transferred Thomas Asbridge another book on crusades to the very top of my to-read list. I'd say: exemplary historical writing, benefiting so much from an obvious author's admiration to Levant, it's history, places and peoples. Wise, thoroughly researched, extremely well-placed in time. It was one of those "clenched fists" reading - another bunch of "Franks" confronting "Infidels". Again and again, and again - same motivation and purpose, so similar rhetoric on all sides. The World, people ... changed so little since XIth Century.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Paul Davies

    Generally very good, though the author’s bias is clear from the start. He writes off the pleas for help from the Asia Minor Christians being ravaged by Muslims and mis-interprets the Bible to claim Christianity is anti-war. These issues are very debatable, yet form the basis for his view - that the Crusades are to blame for the rift between Christians and Muslims.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marco Pignone III

    Reads like a suspense novel. Just a thrilling read and well organized narrative. I started reading the author's lengthier book, The Crusades, but didn't find it to be nearly as well written as this "First Crusade" and would recommend other authors, including James Reston Jr.'s "The Third Crusade" if you enjoy this. If you haven't read anything about the Crusades, this is the place to start. Reads like a suspense novel. Just a thrilling read and well organized narrative. I started reading the author's lengthier book, The Crusades, but didn't find it to be nearly as well written as this "First Crusade" and would recommend other authors, including James Reston Jr.'s "The Third Crusade" if you enjoy this. If you haven't read anything about the Crusades, this is the place to start.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mary Kate

    This was a very enjoyable read! (As a history, however, it has its problems.) The best way I can describe the vibe of this book is that I believe it would make a nice father's day gift. Do you know what I mean? This was a very enjoyable read! (As a history, however, it has its problems.) The best way I can describe the vibe of this book is that I believe it would make a nice father's day gift. Do you know what I mean?

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeroen Van de Crommenacker

    Great history of the first crusade, graphically written whilst still academic enough. The only reason not 4 stars is that I rather read the full Crusades instead of just the first as you kind of want to know what happened next.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bob Link

    Clear content and story/ author is quite lengthy in its description with many repetitions of the same phenomena. I was glad that I could finalize the book where the summary was quite comprehensive and clear.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    Very good review of available documents about the First Crusade, providing a balanced look at the motivations supporting the start of the crusade and its ongoing march to Jerusalem. Fairly detailed.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kate Guest

    Very accessible and readable as well as being fascinating.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Bea Lynch

    Through Thomas Asbridges accounts of the First Crusade, we can learn the intimate details of a war which took place nearly nine hundred years ago in a way which makes us feel like we are right there in Jerusalem, Nicea, and Antioch with them. His vivid imagery and stylized writing create a world in which one can easily understand what the crusaders must have been going through, and why they justified such violence. It leaves the question to you, would you join in the crusade?

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.