God's War: A New History of the Crusades

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Overview

God's War offers a sweeping new vision of one of history's most astounding events: the Crusades.

From 1096 to 1500, European Christians fought to recreate the Middle East, Muslim Spain, and the pagan Baltic in the image of their God. The Crusades are perhaps both the most familiar and most misunderstood phenomena of the medieval world, and here Christopher Tyerman seeks to recreate, from the ground up, the centuries of violence committed as an act of religious devotion.

The result is a stunning reinterpretation of the Crusades, revealed as both bloody political acts and a manifestation of a growing Christian communal identity. Tyerman uncovers a system of belief bound by aggression, paranoia, and wishful thinking, and a culture founded on war as an expression of worship, social discipline, and Christian charity.

This astonishing historical narrative is imbued with figures that have become legends--Saladin, Richard the Lionheart, Philip Augustus. But Tyerman also delves beyond these leaders to examine the thousands and thousands of Christian men--from Knights Templars to mercenaries to peasants--who, in the name of their Savior, abandoned their homes to conquer distant and alien lands, as well as the countless people who defended their soil and eventually turned these invaders back. With bold analysis, Tyerman explicates the contradictory mix of genuine piety, military ferocity, and plain greed that motivated generations of Crusaders. He also offers unique insight into the maturation of a militant Christianity that defined Europe's identity and that has forever influenced the cyclical antagonisms between the Christian and Muslim worlds.

Drawing on all of the most recent scholarship, and told with great verve and authority, God's War is the definitive account of a fascinating and horrifying story that continues to haunt our contemporary world.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books

Christopher Tyerman, who teaches medieval history in Oxford, offers in his new and massive study of the Crusades as a whole a welcome synthesis for the general reader...Full of fascinating detail...God's War is a first-rate, scholarly, up-to-date, and highly readable survey of the entire crusading movement...In the gullible age of The Da Vinci Code, Tyerman offers a sane, informed, and gripping account of one of the most characteristic and most extraordinary manifestations of the Christian Middle Ages.
— Eamon Duffy

Chicago Tribune

A magisterial work...it is a shoo-in to become this generation's definitive history of the original Crusades, a series of military expeditions that temporarily returned the Holy Land to Christian rule in the Middle Ages. Hefty, encyclopedic and a darn good read, Tyerman's book has the rarest of virtues among myriad treatments of the subject: It doesn't bend history to preconceptions.
— Ron Grossman

Daily Telegraph

Anyone who likes knights, castles and battles as much as I do will enjoy Christopher Tyerman's masterpiece God's War, a history of the Crusades written with great breadth, clarity and human sympathy: one of the achievements of the year.
— Dominic Sandbrook

Christian Century

With rekindled controversy about Western invasions of the Middle East, the Crusades of the late Middle Ages take on unanticipated relevance. It is thus a real boon for this strikingly effective book to appear at this time. The key to Tyerman's signal success is his ability to explain both the vicious brutality and the serious Christian altruism that were so intimately intertwined in the crusading experience and that have left such a tangled legacy for Muslim-Christian relations to this day.
— Mark A. Noll

The Nation

God's War is a long but highly readable account of this extensive back-and-forth struggle. It is an impressive achievement, a work that manages to tie together an extraordinary number of threads across nearly half a millennium of European history. Although it can be taken as a response to Pope Benedict XVI's comments at Regensburg, it is more properly read as an extended rejoinder to Steven Runciman's classic three-volume History of the Crusades, published in the early 1950s, a long and colorful account that is nonetheless studded with judgments that now seem prejudiced and amateurish. Tyerman, by contrast, is never amateurish. His knowledge of the period is encyclopedic, and his judgments are sharp, astute, and fair—which is to say unsparing—to both camps. He neither vilifies Islam nor engages in the easy Euro-bashing that is the obverse of Islamophobia. With so many people succumbing to subjectivism these days, it is bracing to come across a historian who remains resolutely above the fray, who insists on viewing the conflict as a whole and who always has the broader context in mind.
— Daniel Lazare

Providence Journal

Christopher Tyerman's God's War is comprehensive, fascinating, and timely. It deflates comparisons of current U.S. strategies with the Crusades. True, the participation of religious in battle (like Odo on the Bayeux Tapestry) is noteworthy, but so is Tyerman's questioning of the cliché 'Age of Faith.' Indeed, while these books make the Middle Ages seem real, they also make it seem different, and our capacity to entertain the differences is morally crucial.
— Tom D'Evelyn

Houston Chronicle

Christopher Tyerman's God's War: A New History of the Crusades is a doorstop of a book, a mammoth effort to retell, based on modern scholarship, the story of how Western Christendom made war to wrest the Holy Lands from Muslim hands. As we all know, this isn't considered ancient history in the Middle East.
— Fritz Lanham

Choice

This thick book compares favorably to Sir Steven Runciman's three-volume A History of the Crusades (1951-54), but where Runciman, writing a half century ago, saw the Crusades as Christianity's moral failure, Tyerman sees a violent era: neither Christians nor Moslems were peaceful, and both faced dangerous enemies...In addition to persuasive revisionist interpretations of individual crusades, Tyerman treats the broader scope of crusading, including Spain, the Balkans, and the Baltic. Most importantly for historians, the author sees nothing in the Crusades than can inform modem politics.
— W. L. Urban

CT Review

God's War is the new standard in the field...Adjectives for [it] almost fail. "Comprehensive," "monumental," and "epic" come to mind, and they are appropriate but scarcely adequate. In brief, this is a work by a master historian.
— Alfred J. Andrea

Frontline

Christopher Tyerman...has written a tome that...draws on the most recent scholarship and offers fresh insights, demolishing myths galore.
— A. G. Noorani

The Atlantic

Tyerman, an Oxford scholar, combines vigorous argument and nuanced analysis in this deeply learned chronicle of the Crusades...It's the best single-volume treatment of this still-controversial and fraught subject.
— Benjamin Healy and Benjamin Schwarz

Diarmaid Macculloch
Christopher Tyerman has crafted a superb book whose majestic architecture compares with Runciman's classic study of the Crusades…He is an entertaining as well as reliable guide to the bizarre centuries-long episode in which Western Christianity willfully ignored its Master's principles of love and forgiveness.
Paul M. Cobb
This is a magisterial work. In God's War, the Crusades are not just emblematic episodes in a troubled history of Europe's encounter with Islam. Tyerman shows that they are, with all their contradictions—tragedy and tomfoolery, idealism and cynicism, piety and savagery—fundamentally and inescapably human.
Edward M. Peters
Tyerman's wonderful book is contemporary medieval history-writing at the top of its game. It is also the finest history of the Crusades that anyone has ever written, fully informed by its predecessors and by the excellent scholarship of the past half century. Trenchantly written on the grand scale and full of vivid detail, clear argument, and sharp judgment, God's War shows how the entire apparatus of crusade became tightly woven into European institutional and social life and consciousness, offering a highly original perspective on all of early European history and on European relations with non-Europeans. It shows no patience with ignorant mythologizing, modern condescension, or cultural instrumentalism.. In short, it constitutes a crusade history for the twenty-first century—and just in time.
James M. Powell
At a time when interest in the Middle East and the Crusades has reached a new height, Christopher Tyerman has made a significant contribution to the ever-growing shelves of books devoted to this subject. Tyerman's well-written book focuses heavily on the development of ideas about holy war from antiquity onward and on the crusade to the East from the eleventh to the sixteenth century. It is based on a careful reading of both primary and secondary sources and will prove an important resource for a broad audience of scholars, students, and general readers. The comparison with Runciman's history leaps out from the pages of this large volume and the temptation to address it will no doubt seduce others, but this volume is Tyerman through and through.
New York Review of Books - Eamon Duffy
Christopher Tyerman, who teaches medieval history in Oxford, offers in his new and massive study of the Crusades as a whole a welcome synthesis for the general reader...Full of fascinating detail...God's War is a first-rate, scholarly, up-to-date, and highly readable survey of the entire crusading movement...In the gullible age of The Da Vinci Code, Tyerman offers a sane, informed, and gripping account of one of the most characteristic and most extraordinary manifestations of the Christian Middle Ages.
The Atlantic - Benjamin Healy And Benjamin Schwarz
Tyerman, an Oxford scholar, combines vigorous argument and nuanced analysis in this deeply learned chronicle of the Crusades...It's the best single-volume treatment of this still-controversial and fraught subject.
Chicago Tribune - Ron Grossman
A magisterial work...it is a shoo-in to become this generation's definitive history of the original Crusades, a series of military expeditions that temporarily returned the Holy Land to Christian rule in the Middle Ages. Hefty, encyclopedic and a darn good read, Tyerman's book has the rarest of virtues among myriad treatments of the subject: It doesn't bend history to preconceptions.
Daily Telegraph - Dominic Sandbrook
Anyone who likes knights, castles and battles as much as I do will enjoy Christopher Tyerman's masterpiece God's War, a history of the Crusades written with great breadth, clarity and human sympathy: one of the achievements of the year.
Christian Century - Mark A. Noll
With rekindled controversy about Western invasions of the Middle East, the Crusades of the late Middle Ages take on unanticipated relevance. It is thus a real boon for this strikingly effective book to appear at this time. The key to Tyerman's signal success is his ability to explain both the vicious brutality and the serious Christian altruism that were so intimately intertwined in the crusading experience and that have left such a tangled legacy for Muslim-Christian relations to this day.
The Nation - Daniel Lazare
God's War is a long but highly readable account of this extensive back-and-forth struggle. It is an impressive achievement, a work that manages to tie together an extraordinary number of threads across nearly half a millennium of European history. Although it can be taken as a response to Pope Benedict XVI's comments at Regensburg, it is more properly read as an extended rejoinder to Steven Runciman's classic three-volume History of the Crusades, published in the early 1950s, a long and colorful account that is nonetheless studded with judgments that now seem prejudiced and amateurish. Tyerman, by contrast, is never amateurish. His knowledge of the period is encyclopedic, and his judgments are sharp, astute, and fair--which is to say unsparing--to both camps. He neither vilifies Islam nor engages in the easy Euro-bashing that is the obverse of Islamophobia. With so many people succumbing to subjectivism these days, it is bracing to come across a historian who remains resolutely above the fray, who insists on viewing the conflict as a whole and who always has the broader context in mind.
Providence Journal - Tom D'evelyn
Christopher Tyerman's God's War is comprehensive, fascinating, and timely. It deflates comparisons of current U.S. strategies with the Crusades. True, the participation of religious in battle (like Odo on the Bayeux Tapestry) is noteworthy, but so is Tyerman's questioning of the cliché 'Age of Faith.' Indeed, while these books make the Middle Ages seem real, they also make it seem different, and our capacity to entertain the differences is morally crucial.
Houston Chronicle - Fritz Lanham
Christopher Tyerman's God's War: A New History of the Crusades is a doorstop of a book, a mammoth effort to retell, based on modern scholarship, the story of how Western Christendom made war to wrest the Holy Lands from Muslim hands. As we all know, this isn't considered ancient history in the Middle East.
Choice - W. L. Urban
This thick book compares favorably to Sir Steven Runciman's three-volume A History of the Crusades (1951-54), but where Runciman, writing a half century ago, saw the Crusades as Christianity's moral failure, Tyerman sees a violent era: neither Christians nor Moslems were peaceful, and both faced dangerous enemies...In addition to persuasive revisionist interpretations of individual crusades, Tyerman treats the broader scope of crusading, including Spain, the Balkans, and the Baltic. Most importantly for historians, the author sees nothing in the Crusades than can inform modem politics.
CT Review - Alfred J. Andrea
God's War is the new standard in the field...Adjectives for [it] almost fail. "Comprehensive," "monumental," and "epic" come to mind, and they are appropriate but scarcely adequate. In brief, this is a work by a master historian.
Frontline - A. G. Noorani
Christopher Tyerman...has written a tome that...draws on the most recent scholarship and offers fresh insights, demolishing myths galore.
Atlantic Monthly

Tyerman, an Oxford scholar, combines vigorous argument and nuanced analysis in this deeply learned chronicle of the Crusades...It's the best single-volume treatment of this still-controversial and fraught subject.
Benjamin Healy and Benjamin Schwartz

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674030701
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/15/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 1040
  • Sales rank: 524,145
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Christopher Tyerman is Lecturer in Medieval History at Hertford College and New College, University of Oxford.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

List of Maps

Acknowledgements

Preface

Introduction: Europe and the Mediterranean

The First Crusade

1. The Origins of Christian Holy War

2. The Summons to Jerusalem

3. The March to Constantinople

4. The Road to the Holy Sepulchre

Frankish Outremer

5. The Foundation of Christian Outremer

6. The Latin States

7. East is East and East is West: Outremer in the Twelfth Century

The Second Crusade

8. A New Path to Salvation? Western Christendom and Holy War 1100-1145

9. God's Bargain: Summoning the Second Crusade

10. 'The Spirit of the Pilgrim God': Fighting the Second Crusade

The Third Crusade

11. 'A Great Cause for Mourning': The Revival of Crusading and the Third Crusade

12. The Call of the Cross

13. To the Siege of Acre

14. The Palestine War 1191-2

The Fourth Crusade

15. 'Ehud's Sharpened Sword'

16. The Fourth Crusade: Preparations

17. The Fourth Crusade: Diversion

The Expansion of Crusading

18. The Albigensian Crusades 1209-29

19. The Fifth Crusade 1213-21

20. Frontier Crusades 1: Conquest in Spain

21. Frontier Crusades 2: the Baltic and the North

The Defence of Outremer

22. Survival and Decline: the Frankish Holy Land in the Thirteenth Century

23. The Defence of the Holy Land 1221-44

24. Louis IX and the Fall of Mainland Outremer 1244-91

The Later Crusades

25. The Eastern Crusades in the Later Middle Ages

26. The Crusade and Christian Society in the Later Middle Ages

Conclusion

Notes

Select Further Reading

Select List of Rulers

Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2008

    Amazing Book!

    This is the best History Book I have ever read, very accurate, well written, with outstanding research and documentation. This book is a jewel!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2007

    As long as you know what you're getting into.

    Having a only a very fundametal understanding of the Crusades era of history I wanted an all encompassing book that provided great detail about the Crusades to further enrich my understanding. However, I bit off a little more than I could chew with Tyerman's book. Incredibly scholarly, Tyerman assumes his reader has a deep and thorough understanding of the Crusade period. From the very beginning I found myself bogged down and overwhelemed by the tedious genealogies and the overly trivial mentioning of even the most insignificant of characters who managed to find his way into the authors research. Often times it feels as if you're reading a Crusades era telephone book. The minutiae of this book is hard to digest to say the least. If you manage to plod your way through the lineage and power politics of the age, to get to the excitement of the actual battle (as I did) you will again be let down. Accounts of the actual battles are very minimal and breif. God's War, with its often overblown scholarly prose, seems as if it was written for Tyerman and his academic crowds that already have achieved a great understanding of this time period. Not a place to start in your quest for Crusade knowledge.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2010

    NOOK

    Need this for the NOOK

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  • Posted March 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    The Crusades of a thousand years ago were much more than most of have heard or been taught.

    Don't let the size or title stop you from buying this book. It is worth the time it will take you to get through it. Be your knowledge of the Crusades limited to remembered wisps of high school social studies classes or extensive, What Christopher Tyerman has constructed makes good reading. It dwells almost exclusively on the Christian/European side of more than a 400 year sweep, but this is clearly the author's intent. He still had plenty to write. His product is more satisfying than earlier books I have read on the topic. To add Muslim Turkish/Arab/Kurdish views would have made the volume even larger. There are several books presenting both sides, and I have read some. I would like, however, a comparable work on that side. Be you Christian, Jewish, Muslim, some form of spiritual, agnostic or atheist, reading God's War is instructive. God's War demonstrates how our current mixing of selective, considered by some "true," religious views into political processes is indeed as unpredictable as it is dangerous.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

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