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The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  1,911 Ratings  ·  194 Reviews
The Crusades is an authoritative, accessible single-volume history of the brutal struggle for the Holy Land in the Middle Ages. Thomas Asbridge—a renowned historian who writes with “maximum vividness” (Joan Acocella, The New Yorker)—covers the years 1095 to 1291 in this  big, ambitious, readable account of one of the most fascinating periods in history. From Richard the Li ...more
Hardcover, 784 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Ecco (first published 2010)
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Jun 06, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic narrative history of the Crusades from the First Crusade at the end of the 11th Century right up till the end of Christian Outremer in the 1290s when Islam regained control of the Levant after nearly 200 years of 'occupation' by the Latin Christians. A really gripping, page-turning read, as Tom Asbridge writes fluidly with a really straightforward prose that is just packed full of interesting facts, analyses and hypothesis. This book, for 680 pages, covers all the main histor ...more


Description: Dr Thomas Asbridge presents a revelatory account of the Crusades, the 200-year war between Christians and Muslims for control of the Holy Land.

The story of the Crusades is remembered as a tale of religious fanaticism and unspeakable violence, but now fresh research, eyewitness testimony and contemporary evidence from both the Christian and Islamic worlds shed new light on how these two great religions waged war in the name of God.

Mar 07, 2014 Megan rated it it was amazing
I am fairly certain that I have read more history books than is typical for a 24-year-old girl, perhaps more than is typical for a 50-year-old man. So, I have been around the history book block a time or two. I have slowly been starting to get more and more interested in the earlier decades of the creation of nations or empires in Europe. The Crusades have always been a fairly basic given to me, Christians went to war to promote Christianity and take back Jerusalem. Cool? Reading this book, I re ...more
Feb 20, 2015 Sean rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fine and concise overview of a complex, two centuries long cycle of conquest - first Western, then Muslim. I say concise because even at nearly 700 pages of text, it's obvious that any given chapter of this book could itself be expanded into a more detailed volume.

I'm casually familiar with medieval history and the crusades, but as it turns out, I didn't really know what a crusade was, how one was orchestrated, what the participants believed they were participating in, how crusades changed ove
Jeff Gassler
Mar 30, 2013 Jeff Gassler rated it really liked it
Asbridge's account of the Holy Wars from 1095-1291 is a well written and engaging work. Asbridge has done what Rodney Stark, author of God's Battalions: The Case for the Crusades has done; he has written a history that reads more like a story. The highlights of this work are The First Crusade, especially Baldwin I of Jerusalem's conquests after 1099 and Saladin's history prior to The Battle of Hattin. The Second Crusade is passed over quickly (something common with most historians of this moveme ...more
Authoritative - adj. "having or showing impressive knowledge about a subject"

Asbridge's 'authoritative history' of the Crusades certainly does this. It is a very extensive look at the period in a single volume. There are problems; I think there is still not enough examination of what was going on in the Muslim world around the Crusader States, and the role of Byzantium in the area is barely touched on most of the time. But, neither are these absent.

In fact, the role of Byzantine cooperation with
Mike Kershaw
Nov 29, 2012 Mike Kershaw rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at the National Cathedral in Washington DC on a Church Youth Group trip after hearing Chaplain Dave Curlin speak on "The Dangers of a Monolithic interpretation of Islam" and re-reading Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" on a trip to Afghanistan. The Crusades are a central reference point between Christianity and the Western World and Islam for good reason. Asbridge's book was an engaging read. He discusses the period between 1097 and 1291 and Five Crusades (depending on ...more
Jordan Schneider
Feb 02, 2017 Jordan Schneider rated it liked it
Soundtrack for the book review: Veni Creator Spiritus was the Crusades’ anthem, which folks took to singing to pump up before battles and even as they were about to get slaughtered.

In 1095 at the Council of Clermont, Pope Urban II bent history and conjured up the Crusades.
“Whoever wishes to save his soul should not hesitate humbly to take up the way of the Lord, and if he lacks sufficient money, divine mercy will give him enough. Brethren, we ought to endure much suffering for the name of Christ
Helen Callaghan
Nov 17, 2009 Helen Callaghan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Signed with the Cross - "The Crusades" by Thomas Asbridge
location: London
mood: impressed
music: Toxic Valentine - All Time Low
I've frequently whinged about the rather dispiriting lack of anything resembling a proper popular cultural history of the Middle Ages. There's loads of great Tudor era material, but not much from earlier. I have my much-loved copy of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England by Ian Mortimer, which is an utter life-saver, but unfortunately it concentrates on the Fourte
Elliott Bignell
Apr 12, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it it was amazing
By far the best-balanced treatment of the Crusades I have yet to encounter, this monumental work had me rivetted. Impaled, even. I have rarely eaten up so hefty a work in so short a time. Gripping, clearly written and unbiased, this has to be the best of its class.

The book takes an interesting approach of alternating between Muslim and Christian points of view in successive sections, consciously striving for balance. It neither takes a hatchet to reputations on either side nor degenerates into a
D.J. Weaver
Dec 01, 2009 D.J. Weaver rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 22, 2017 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Massive, comprehensive book about the Crusades. I learned a ton and enjoyed it, but it's a bit of a slog at times. Consider yourself warned.
Justin Evans
Apr 07, 2011 Justin Evans rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-etc
I was surprised at this one. Asbridge writes perfectly clear sentences, the kind of thing I would read in a student's paper and give bonus marks for, while also cautioning them that some thoughts do require something beyond this kind of prose. The good news is that this makes the book perfectly readable; the bad news is that, well, it isn't Gibbon or even D. MacCulloch level prose. But it gets maximum marks for user-friendliness.
Cons: since there's no variation in prose style, the battle narrat
Feb 27, 2013 Lehiff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
This is a great introduction to the subject, and it was a great choice to include both the Christian and Muslim points of view. The discussion on the historical parallellism between past and present among the people and groups that today try to use the crusades for their ideological purposes is among the highlights of the book. It's fascinating that the crusades have become 'proof' today that there has been an unbroken line of strife and hatred between Christianity and Islam ever since the mamlu ...more
Christopher Fox
Feb 12, 2017 Christopher Fox rated it it was amazing
If this topic is of interest to you then read this wonderful book and you'll likely never need to read another. There is no aspect of these 200 years that Asbridge doesn't cover in detail (even at the end talking about their effect on subsequent generations and civilizations).

What may set this extensive, beautifully written tome apart from others is the coverage the author gives to "the other side" - the Arabs, Muslims, their various sects, internal politics and struggles even to the part the Mo
John Nellis
May 11, 2011 John Nellis rated it really liked it
Very good narrative of the Crusades. It was a nice read , I learned a lot of things I hadn't known about the Crusades. It read like a good novel and wasn't slowed by an overload of information . This would be a good starting point for someone wanting to learn about the Crusades. I especially enjoyed learning about the Mongol invasion of the middle east. An event I knew very little about. Mr. Asbridge does spend time discussing the currant conflict in the Middle east a the end of the book,and how ...more
Jane Feehan
Apr 12, 2013 Jane Feehan rated it liked it
Though well-written and researched, Thomas Asbridge's tome about the Crusades may leave one with a sense of having read a history about the rise of Islam in the Near East. Yes, the account begins with the call by Pope Urban II for Christians to retake Jerusalem and there is narrative about key European participants but Asbridge weaves this into a history of Muslim nation building and militarism almost as if it were a backdrop. Most of this book of nearly 700 pages focuses on the battles of the f ...more
Helena Schrader
Aug 09, 2013 Helena Schrader rated it liked it
Shelves: middle-ages
While well researched and written in a readable style, for it's length it skipped over far to many important aspects of crusader history. I actually gave up reading it less than half-way through because I was not getting the information I needed for serious research. I turned Malcolm Barber'sThe Crusader States instead and found it much more useful.
Nov 11, 2015 Bill rated it it was amazing
Great, relatively fast-paced and fact filled account of the Crusades, beginning prior to the 1st Crusade, which launched in 1095, and ending about 200 years later. Provides a good overview of the motivations (and motivators) for the Crusades, key battles, political and military figures, etc.

Jagati Bagchi
Oct 08, 2013 Jagati Bagchi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book took me in that age . . . . enjoyed the journey and unveiling of the questions I had so long in my mind. The politics of crusade always fascinated me. knowing the details i find more drawn to that age . . . .
Feb 25, 2010 Natalia marked it as hibernating
Shelves: first-reads
So far, a very smooth read, packed with a lot of stuff I didn't know about the Crusades. It's a really interesting time in history, for sure.
Daryl Thompson
Jan 04, 2017 Daryl Thompson rated it really liked it
A very informative read about the Crusades. I knew very little about this period of time before reading Asbridge's book. A very violent time in our worlds history.
Jan 21, 2014 Wanda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Melki
21 JAN 2014 -- Melki! Many thanks.
Trevor Kew
May 12, 2017 Trevor Kew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kewwar, kew-nf
After reading Roger Crowley's "1453," a gripping account of the conquest of Constantinople, I was spurred on to move further back into the history of the region and tackle the Crusades, an era that I've always struggled to understand beyond a surface level (no doubt all the fictional representations, which tend to compress, oversimplify, exoticise, etc. haven't helped too much).

I couldn't have chosen a better book than Asbridge's "The Crusades." It is expansive yet detailed, well-researched yet
Timothy Stead
A balanced and engaging introduction to one of the most contentious periods in history.

The events of September 11, 2001 and it's aftermath led to a renewed interest in the often troubled relationship between Christianity and Islam. Unfortunately, any treatment of this relationship must deal with the two centuries in which the Latin Catholic West launched a series of religious wars in the Levant, Syria and Egypt. To get to grips with the legacy of the past and move beyond it, it is more important
Elia Princess of Starfall
Mar 08, 2016 Elia Princess of Starfall added it
Recommends it for: Fans of medieval history
Recommended to Elia Princess of Starfall by: Chapters
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 18, 2017 Tawney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Thorough examination of the 200 year period encompassing what we call The Crusades. At times the detail seems excessive, but the subject is so complicated it would be to the book's detriment to explain less. The politics can come across as if from today's headlines - siege of Mosul, Sunni/Shia conflict. At other times the 11th Century is indeed an age away. The best known participants, like Saladin and Richard I have so often become cartoon characters. Asbridge presents them as real people, not ...more
Tres Herndon
Feb 23, 2017 Tres Herndon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The author did a good job of providing perspective from both the Christian and Muslim sides. He also did a good job debunking conventional wisdom, not to replace it with definitive conclusions of his own, but to illustrate the complexity of the period, especially given the lack of reliable primary sources. What also stuck out was the cruelty perpetrated by both sides, the hundreds of thousands of people that died of starvation, execution, and disease over 200 years (b ...more
Richard Shulmistra
May 04, 2017 Richard Shulmistra rated it liked it
Good book. The author does a nice job taking years to do his research, both from the Christian side and Muslim side, to try to give us the stories. While long, it was great history and I am glad I plowed my way through it.
Feb 22, 2017 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, audible
I don't think I have ever described a history book as an emotional rollercoaster before, but there is always a first time. The first for me is Thomas Asbridge's "The Crusades: The Authoritative History of the War for the Holy Land." This book spans the climactic years of 1095 - 1291 A.D. from the launching of the First Crusade to the final fall of the Crusader states. Despite knowing how the story ends, so to speak, I was on the edge of my seat the entire book, following the events with a mixtur ...more
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Thomas Asbridge is an internationally renowned expert on the history of the Middle Ages and author of the critically acclaimed books The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land and The First Crusade: A New History. His latest publication is The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones.

Thomas studied for a BA in Ancient and Medieval History at Cardi
More about Thomas Asbridge...

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“Concepts such as love, charity, obligation and tradition all helped to shape medieval attitudes to devotion, but perhaps the most powerful conditioning influence was fear;” 0 likes
“when Latin crusading armies arrived in the Near East to wage what essentially were frontier wars, they were not actually invading the heartlands of Islam. Instead, they were fighting for control of a land that, in some respects, was also a Muslim frontier,” 0 likes
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