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The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  1,751 Ratings  ·  174 Reviews
A one-volume history of the Crusades to the Holy Land - telling this fascinating and bloody story from both Christian and Muslim perspectives for the first time.
Paperback, 767 pages
Published August 1st 2010 by Pocket Books (first published 2010)
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Jun 18, 2012 Kevin rated it it was amazing
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.

Sep 01, 2016 Megan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 07, 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
Jan 30, 2014 Jeff Gassler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Justin Evans
Apr 07, 2011 Justin Evans rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
Elliott Bignell
Apr 12, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Mike Kershaw
Nov 29, 2012 Mike Kershaw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 20, 2013 Lehiff rated it really liked it
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
John Nellis
Feb 21, 2015 John Nellis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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  ·  review of another edition
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
May 10, 2014 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 . . . .
Mar 21, 2010 Natalia marked it as hibernating  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 21, 2014 Wanda marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Melki
21 JAN 2014 -- Melki! Many thanks.
Timothy Stead
Sep 16, 2012 Timothy Stead rated it really liked it
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ray Palmer
Dec 30, 2016 Ray Palmer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the end of the book Asbridge talks about the danger of historical false parallelism. He insists that modern conflicts can not be equated to conflicts of the time of the Crusades, nor do they represent a manifestation of a continuous ongoing struggle that started with the Crusades.

Having said that, I’m left with some fairly depressing takeaways from the book. Self serving factionalism leads to crippling dissolution. Demonizing a political foe is an effective way to impose autocracy.

“He that h
Jan 08, 2017 Nilesh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Definitely a good, balanced, well-researched review of a series of battles and wars that have assumed unusual and unjustified significance in our times.

The wars over the four Lavant regions or Crusade States from 1090-1300 were perhaps not too unusual. There were many parties and battles involved but almost all the divisions were along the religious lines, which was the most unusual part in real time. Both sides had massive adversaries coming together at times under religious banners for the def
Jan 21, 2017 Aishuu rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was incredibly dry and hard to get through - after a while I kept going just because I'm stubborn. It was very well researched, and I was pleased to get both sides of the story, but after the third crusade things started to just blur together. It's important history, but it became very repetitive. Definitely "great man" history, which is forgivable since the sources are extremely limited.
Daryl Thompson
Jan 04, 2017 Daryl Thompson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
萧行 Xiaoxing
Dec 03, 2016 萧行 Xiaoxing rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
legendary epic with contemporary significance, five stars!
John Powell
May 20, 2015 John Powell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This 767 page tome is another great gift to the lay reader from the world of academe. In the presence of such a major work of scholarship a reviewer can only stand in awe. Few, if any, outside of a university department of medieval history, could be qualified to check and evaluate this book which builds upon so much learning from past as well as specialist modern historians from both the Western/Christian tradition and important Moslem sources. The author does not claim to tell the full story, p ...more
Oct 09, 2016 Derek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and the research was extremely detailed and corroborated as often as possible.
David Bradley
Jun 09, 2015 David Bradley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an effective introduction to the history of the Crusades. The length (680 pages of narrative) was appropriate for the scope of the work, and the narrative pace felt like I was being moved along the history at the right speed. It seems like there are three threads to this story. Two of the threads are presented excellently, but one thread seemed lacking. The three threads, in order of effectiveness, are as follows:

1) The author provides a thorough account of the political, cultural, and
This was an excellent history of the crusades. There is obviously a lot to cover and Asbridge deftly and descriptively details (like the alliteration?) over 200 years of history.

The sense I get is how almost arbitrary it is to write a history of "the crusades" as if they were isolated events in history. We often assume that the crusades were a monolithic mass movement (I'm on a roll here) and that from start to finish they fit the framework of the first crusade. But in reality the history is no
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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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