The First Crusade: A New History

Overview


On the last Tuesday of November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech that launched the First Crusade. His words set Christendom afire. Some 100,000 men, from knights to paupers, took up the call--the largest mobilization of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire.
Now, in The First Crusade, Thomas Asbridge offers a gripping account of a titanic three-year adventure filled with miraculous victories, greedy princes and barbarity on a vast scale. Readers follow...
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Overview


On the last Tuesday of November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech that launched the First Crusade. His words set Christendom afire. Some 100,000 men, from knights to paupers, took up the call--the largest mobilization of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire.
Now, in The First Crusade, Thomas Asbridge offers a gripping account of a titanic three-year adventure filled with miraculous victories, greedy princes and barbarity on a vast scale. Readers follow the crusaders from their mobilization in Europe (where great waves of anti-Semitism resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jews), to their arrival in Constantinople, an exotic, opulent city--ten times the size of any city in Europe--that bedazzled the Europeans. Featured in vivid detail are the siege of Nicaea and the pivotal battle for Antioch, the single most important military engagement of the entire expedition, where the crusaders, in desperate straits, routed a larger and better-equipped Muslim army. Through all this, the crusaders were driven on by intense religious devotion, convinced that their struggle would earn them the reward of eternal paradise in Heaven. But when a hardened core finally reached Jerusalem in 1099 they unleashed an unholy wave of brutality, slaughtering thousands of Muslims--men, women, and children--all in the name of Christianity.
The First Crusade marked a watershed in relations between Islam and the West, a conflict that set these two world religions on a course toward deep-seated animosity and enduring enmity. The chilling reverberations of this earth-shattering clash still echo in the world today.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In 1095, Pope Urban II preached a fiery sermon that changed the course of Western history: he urged Christian warriors to take up the sword and defend their brothers in the East who had been defeated by the Muslims, and to retake the holy city of Jerusalem, then under Islamic control. Asbridge, a British authority on the Crusades, brilliantly re-creates the three-year history of the First Crusade, chronicling its difficulties and victories, not downplaying its brutality but emphasizing its genuinely religious impulse. He vividly recounts the terrible winter of 1096 in Antioch, which reduced the Christian armies from 100,000 to 30,000. Focusing on the warriors' beliefs, Asbridge astutely points out that the warriors interpreted this as God's cleansing of the weaker and less committed fighters and concluded that victory was ordained for the survivors in the final, bloody battles. Asbridge also observes that the Christian forces acted less out of an inborn hatred of Islam than out of a desire for a place in heaven if they died in battle. While relations between Christianity and Islam did not break down immediately as a result of the crusaders' triumph, later pro-war propaganda on both sides drove a wedge between the two religions. Asbridge combines fast-paced history writing, evocative prose and lucid research for a first-rate history of the First Crusade. B&w illus., 9 maps. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-This concise, fascinating account begins with a brief discussion of the events and individuals who influenced Pope Urban II's call for a holy war in 1095. Blending recent research with 11th- and 12th-century writings, Asbridge describes the extraordinary circumstances that introduced the pacifist Christian church to militarism and launched tens of thousands of men and women on a journey they could scarcely comprehend. The number of significant participants of the First Crusade was huge, but the author keeps the telling manageable by focusing on two dozen of the most famous. Readers learn about their appearance, backgrounds, and beliefs before setting out with them for Jerusalem. Vivid eyewitness accounts are quoted, with corrections made for obvious errors, such as estimates of numbers of fighters. The frenetic preparations for departure, the horrors of the journey, and the savage battles are described with compelling realism. The bloody sack of Jerusalem concludes the main narrative, but an aftermath covers the subsequent lives of the major participants, and a conclusion evaluates the crusade's long-term impact. Several useful features include 9 maps, 16 pages of black-and-white photographs of medieval art and fortifications, an annotated cast of characters, and a glossary.-Kathy Tewell, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195178234
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 10/1/2004
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Asbridge is Lecturer in Early Medieval History at Queen Mary, University of London. An acknowledged expert on the history of the Crusades, he has traveled extensively in the Near East following the route of the First Crusade.

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Table of Contents

1 Holy war proclaimed 1
2 Afire with crusading fever 40
3 The journey to Byzantium 83
4 The first storm of war 117
5 Before the walls of Antioch 153
6 Tightening the screw 188
7 To the edge of annihilation 212
8 Descent into discord 241
9 The faltering path 271
10 The holy city 295
11 Aftermath 320
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2006

    Fantastic history that reads like a novel

    How do you get 100,000 people to leave their homes and walk a few thousand miles to fight in a strange land? The fact that this succeeded is frankly unexplainable after reading this book...except to say that Pope Urban's speech in 1097 must have been some speech. By the time they made it to Syria, there were half as many people, they had no food, and most of the horses were dead and the princes mostly penniless. They then proceeded to take over a few 'impenetrable' fortresses along the way! Once you get past the who's who chapter, the story comes off like this improbable adventure novel. Although a large portion of the book centers on the siege of Antioch (which was more interesting than the siege of Jerusalem)I was impressed with the author's ability to find the story despite the amazing number of players and time involved. Highly recommended overview of this oft referenced and little understood period of history.

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