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Two Books on the Crusades

After 9/11, when President Bush used the word “crusade” in one of his speeches, it  raised red flags in Europe. Why do those battles — ones which Christians eventually lost — still important? There were two books on this topic and both WSJ and The New York Times had reviews.

What comes through clearly is that the “remembered” history of the Crusades might better be called an imagined or invented history. Mr. Asbridge, a senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London, puts it this way: The Crusades “have come to have a profound bearing upon our modern world, but almost entirely through the agency of illusion.” Mr. Phillips, a professor of history at Royal Holloway University of London, says that we have seen only “shadows of the crusades, not true shapes.”[Book Review: Holy Warriors and The Crusades – WSJ.com]

Also it was not just Christians against Muslims

Phillips concentrates on the seven “official” crusades, from 1095 to the final disastrous campaigns of Louis IX (St. Louis) of France in 1248-54 and 1270, but he also describes the fiasco of the so-called Children’s Crusade as well as the horrifying Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars of southwest France. As he notes, “holy war” was as often as not waged against coreligionists: Catholics against Cathars, Sunnis against Shiites. In the rigid, polarized mentality of the holy warrior, any deviation can signify a dangerous otherness. This is the best recent history of the Crusades; it is also an astute depiction of a frightening cast of mind.[Book Review – ‘Holy Warriors – A Modern History of the Crusades,’ by Jonathan Phillips – Review – NYTimes.com]

2 Responses to Two Books on the Crusades

  1. Fëanor April 9, 2010 at 5:59 am #

    You might find Amin Maalouf’s The Crusades Through Arab Eyes quite useful for a counterpoint to Western views of the crusades.

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