Alex Barry's Reviews > A History of the Crusades, Vol. II: The Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Frankish East, 1100-1187

A History of the Crusades, Vol. II by Steven Runciman
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Dec 21, 12

bookshelves: history-crusades
Read from November 11 to December 20, 2012

The middle volume of Professor Runciman's meticulously researched history, dealing with the periods leading up to, and following, the abysmal Second Crusade. A challenging and difficult read, with character names among the Franks, the Byzantines, the Armenians, and the Arabs (among many others) that may seem to repeat and confuse, and many locations largely unknown to the modern western reader. The author's account is not always linear, moving back and forth in time as he recounts details of different actors going through the same events. The reader with awareness of the future short remaining history of Byzantium will be struck with alarm and sadness as the events leading up to the empire's ultimate annihilation are made clear. One is astonished by the revelations of infamous brutality and cruelty among the Franks, in contrast to a commensurate measure of mercy and kindness practiced by certain of the great Arabic leaders. Our western view of knighthood and chivalry is sorely tested by the episodes retold in this book, which are largely based upon first-person accounts copiously cited by the author in comprehensive footnotes and a lengthy bibliography. Not a book I'd recommend to a reader with a casual, passing interest in battles, sieges, and knighthood, but certainly a must-read for those enthralled, as I am, with the history of the place and period, and who have a background in the subjects at hand.
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