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Fighting for the Cross: Crusading to the Holy Landby Norman Housley
Synopses & Reviews
In a series of massive military undertakings that stretched from 1095 to 1291, Christendomand#8217;s armies won, defended, and lost the sacred sites of the Holy Land. Many books have been written about the Crusades, but until now none has described in detail what is was like to take part in medieval Europeand#8217;s most ambitious wars. This vividly written book draws on extensive research and on a wealth of surviving contemporary accounts to recreate the full experience of crusading, from the elation of taking up the cross to the difficult adjustments at home when the war was over.
Distinguished historian Norman Housley explores the staggering logistical challenges of raising, equipping, and transporting thousands of Christian combatants from Europe to the East as well as the complications that non-combatant pilgrims presented. He describes the ordinary crusaderand#8217;s prolonged years of difficult military tasks, risk of starvation and disease, trial of religious faith, death of friends, and the specter of heavy debt or stolen homelands upon arriving home. Creating an unprecedented sense of immediacy, Housley brings to light the extent of crusadersand#8217; sacrifices and the religious commitment that enabled them to endure.
"Narrative histories of the Crusades tend toward bloody accounts of a particular Crusade. This imaginative thematic treatment draws on all the Crusades to portray them coherently as a centuries-long institution of 'armed pilgrimage,' with its own religious ideology, economic imperatives, social dynamics and folkways. After a lucid synopsis of the seven major Crusades from 1096 to 1291, British historian Housley (University of Leicester) offers a topical survey of the crusader experience, drawn from letters, songs and other primary sources. He covers the recruitment of crusaders by 'superstar' preachers; the horrific journeys by sea (with terrifying storms and wormy food) or land (with Turkish attacks and no food at all); protocols for plundering cities; attitudes toward the Muslim foe; commoners' resentment for their overlords; and the occasionally triumphant but often dejected homecoming. The chapter on crusader warfare, which corrects the usual overemphasis on knightly cavalry, is especially good. Throughout, Housley focuses on crusading as a sincere, if easily misdirected, expression of Catholic belief, a march toward personal salvation through the collective recovery of the Holy Land. This rich, multifaceted study imparts a deeper understanding of why and how medieval Christendom went to war. Photos, maps. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Norman Housley is professor of history and Head of the School of Historical Studies, University of Leicester. He is a world authority on the Middle Ages and on the Crusades in particular. He lives in Leicester, UK.
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