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Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade

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The success of the First Crusade, and its capture of Jerusalem in 1099, has been conventionally explained by its ideological and political motivation. This book looks at the First Crusade primarily as a military campaign and asks why it was so successful. Modern writing about the crusade has tended to emphasize the moral dimension and the development of the idea of the cru The success of the First Crusade, and its capture of Jerusalem in 1099, has been conventionally explained by its ideological and political motivation. This book looks at the First Crusade primarily as a military campaign and asks why it was so successful. Modern writing about the crusade has tended to emphasize the moral dimension and the development of the idea of the crusade, but its fate was ultimately decided on the field of battle. This book looks at the nature of war at the end of the eleventh century and the military experience of all the contending parties in order to explain its extraordinary success.


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The success of the First Crusade, and its capture of Jerusalem in 1099, has been conventionally explained by its ideological and political motivation. This book looks at the First Crusade primarily as a military campaign and asks why it was so successful. Modern writing about the crusade has tended to emphasize the moral dimension and the development of the idea of the cru The success of the First Crusade, and its capture of Jerusalem in 1099, has been conventionally explained by its ideological and political motivation. This book looks at the First Crusade primarily as a military campaign and asks why it was so successful. Modern writing about the crusade has tended to emphasize the moral dimension and the development of the idea of the crusade, but its fate was ultimately decided on the field of battle. This book looks at the nature of war at the end of the eleventh century and the military experience of all the contending parties in order to explain its extraordinary success.

30 review for Victory in the East: A Military History of the First Crusade

  1. 4 out of 5

    Suzannah

    Re-read preparatory to starting work on A CONSPIRACY OF PROPHETS. Still one of the best works there is on the First Crusade. -- This was probably the most in-depth history of the First Crusade that I've yet read, although it largely ignores the ideological/religious side of things (for which I'd recommend Jonathan Riley-Smith's THE FIRST CRUSADE AND THE IDEA OF CRUSADING), and it shouldn't be read as an introduction to the topic (for which I'd recommend Thomas Asbridge's THE FIRST CRUSADE: A NEW HI Re-read preparatory to starting work on A CONSPIRACY OF PROPHETS. Still one of the best works there is on the First Crusade. -- This was probably the most in-depth history of the First Crusade that I've yet read, although it largely ignores the ideological/religious side of things (for which I'd recommend Jonathan Riley-Smith's THE FIRST CRUSADE AND THE IDEA OF CRUSADING), and it shouldn't be read as an introduction to the topic (for which I'd recommend Thomas Asbridge's THE FIRST CRUSADE: A NEW HISTORY). Instead, France digs deep into the military background, tactics, weapons, and dilemmas faced by the crusaders. He does sterling work describing important battlefields and debating military decisions and strategies. There are generous quantities of maps and France has clearly done the on-the-spot research required. I particularly appreciated the background provided on the crusaders' three enemies: the semi-nomadic Turks of Asia Minor, the Turkish-dominated caliphate of Babylon, and the Fatimids in Egypt. It's no secret that one major feature of the First Crusade was the infighting among the leaders, who were prickly noblemen jealous of their honour and absolutely determined not to defer to each other in any way. For most historians, this has been seen as a scandal and a hindrance. France, however, argues that in spite of this disunity the crusaders were able to work well together in battle after battle. "The army...was sadly divided in leadership, but in spirit it was united... Without this they would undoubtedly have failed." Although the crusade was definitely impeded by the infighting among the leaders, it's amazing to me (leaving aside for the moment the uh, problematic nature of their goal) that the ideological commitment of ordinary people was such a significant driver of its success.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Paul Cool

    As the subtitle indicates, this is a military history. The focus never moves far from the art of war as practiced by the First Crusaders and their various Islamic adversaries. Leadership qualities of the various "princes" who led the crusade, the strategies and tactics they utilized and on occasion developed, and the supply, logistics, battlefield, and personality challenges they faced and overcame are thoroughly examined. The narrative does not always drive the story, as author John France enga As the subtitle indicates, this is a military history. The focus never moves far from the art of war as practiced by the First Crusaders and their various Islamic adversaries. Leadership qualities of the various "princes" who led the crusade, the strategies and tactics they utilized and on occasion developed, and the supply, logistics, battlefield, and personality challenges they faced and overcame are thoroughly examined. The narrative does not always drive the story, as author John France engages in a number of digressions to weigh and discuss the various historical sources before selecting the most probable version of events. The introductory material is especially fascinating. France opens with an extended account of warfare as practiced by the Normans and other French prior to the Crusade, including Duke William's conquest of Normandy, in order to help the reader understand how the Crusaders applied lessons learned to the immensely greater and more difficult campaigns in Anatolia, Syria, and Palestine. Highly recommended to students of military and Medieval history.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Conrad

    Clearly argued and rich with as much topographic and tactical detail as can now be recovered. There is little characterization of participants, even speculatively, but a note on sources (which should be read first despite coming at the end of the text) helps distinguish some of the key personalities.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    read for grad schol

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cory

    I'm grateful to this work for giving me a more solid understanding of medieval warfare. In particular, the early discussion of the limited nature of warfare in that period was illuminating. Rather than pitched battles for "total control" over territory, warfare was largely an attempt to hold strongpoints like castles while raiding the surrounding countryside for food. Unfortunately, the rest of the work is less well-constructed. It seems to mostly be geared toward those already familiar with the I'm grateful to this work for giving me a more solid understanding of medieval warfare. In particular, the early discussion of the limited nature of warfare in that period was illuminating. Rather than pitched battles for "total control" over territory, warfare was largely an attempt to hold strongpoints like castles while raiding the surrounding countryside for food. Unfortunately, the rest of the work is less well-constructed. It seems to mostly be geared toward those already familiar with the main characters and events of the First Crusade, only giving the former's biographies in disorganized snippets. Much of the piece is simply an attempt to reconstruct the events of historical battles rather than analyze the military decisions made in them. An interesting work on a promising topic but one that did not live up to its full potential.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

  7. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alison McMahan

  10. 4 out of 5

    Luke

  11. 5 out of 5

    Wayne

  12. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Scott Amis

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  14. 4 out of 5

    Susann

  15. 4 out of 5

    Taylor Kniphfer

  16. 4 out of 5

    zeb

  17. 4 out of 5

    Steve Switzer

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Latham

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brad

  20. 4 out of 5

    LEVI J

  21. 4 out of 5

    Luke

  22. 4 out of 5

    El

  23. 4 out of 5

    Zoe

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Hesselbach

  25. 4 out of 5

    Markus Carlsson

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

  27. 5 out of 5

    David Long

  28. 5 out of 5

    Victor Clark

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ton

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tiffanie Austin

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