Book Reviews

Book Review: Remembering the Crusades.


For millions in western countries, the Crusades represent nothing more than a blip in history, if anything, but millions of Muslims know about the Crusades, discuss all of them at length, and still think that all were conducted unjustly.

For most, there were only four Crusades, the first of which started in 1095 and ended four years later.

All in all, there were nine Crusades (1147 – 1149, 1187 – 1192, 1202 – 1204, 1217 – 1221, 1228 – 1229, 1248 – 1254, 1270, and 1271 – 1272).

It is remarkable that in all, clergy was involved, some more than others, although Christian doctrine advocates peace.

Although Byzantium with the capital of Constantinople (now Istanbul) was an important and Christian ally, the soldiers of the fourth Crusade in 1204 sacked the city and plundered all valuable art and anything of value, according to historical records, a misunderstanding and, or, miscommunication between the rulers of Byzantium and the leaders of the Crusade.

The editors Nicholas Paul (an assistant professor of history and S. Yaeger (an associate professor of English and medieval studies) present Remembering the Crusades in three parts – Remembrance and Response; Sites and Structures – Cities, Buildings and Bodies; and Institutional Memory and Community Identity.

Each part contains articles written by historians examining the Crusades from different perspectives.

Illustrations throughout the book help the reader understand and visualize circumstances prevailing during each Crusade.

Few events in European history generated more historical, artistic, and literary responses than the conquest of Jerusalem by the armies of the First Crusade. This epic military and religious expedition and others that followed it, became part of the collective memory of communities in Europe, Byzantium, North Africa, and the Near East,

Well-researched articles shed light on circumstances of the time, and answer many questions that historians posed, and continue to pose to this day.

This unprecedented multidisciplinary and cross-cultural approach explains, at least partially, the way of thinking almost a millennium ago, and the way historians think today.

Some articles are about Muslim travellers and writers of the time, who portray how cities looked, and what people ate.

In those days there were no passport and/or visa requirements to contend with.

One article deals with contrasting portrayals of Martyrdom and the Hebrew Narratives of the First and Second Crusades, and another deals with church architecture in European cities and Jerusalem.

This is a fascinating book that every historian and history buff should read and use as a reference, but it must be mandatory reading for all students of history in all universities.

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