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The First Crusaders, 1095-1131


The First Crusaders, 1095-1131 Cover

ISBN13: 9780521646031
ISBN10: 0521646030
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Much has been written about the crusades, but very little about the crusaders. What moved them to go? What preparations did they need to make? How did they react to their experiences? This book comes up with detailed answers to these questions, and offers the first systematic reading of a large cache of contemporary source material. The author identifies family clusters of crusaders across Europe, whose collective commitment manifested itself in support for the new settlements in the East.


A detailed account of the circumstances and motives of the first crusaders.


A detailed account of the circumstances and motives of the first crusaders.

Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. Crusading and crusaders, 1095-1131; 2. Holy sepulchre, holy war; 3. Preaching and the crusaders; 4. Recruitment, lordship and family; 5. Preparing for the crusades; 6. Returning from the crusades; 7. Crusading and the Montlhérys; 8. Conclusion and postscript; Appendix; Bibliography.

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John Lowe, November 24, 2012 (view all comments by John Lowe)
Perhaps one of the most commonly cited secondary works on crusader history for nearly two decades, this ground breaking work was an attempt by Dr. Riley-Smith to understand the men and women who led the first of what would become the 'crusades' idea, namely an armed pilgrimage to the Holy Land, specifically Jerusalem. Instead of focusing on the events of the First Crusade itself, this work attempts to define the development of holy war up to the preaching of the crusade at Clermont in 1095, analyzing the true cost of crusading, and discussing the importance of family connections that either aided or inhibited success for the crusaders.

Riley-Smith argues that the notion of a penitential pilgrimage to the holy land was not in itself a new thing, but the rationalization of a form of warfare to work for spiritual cleanliness was. Riley-Smith illuminates a world in which all of society is plagued by a fear of a state of sinfulness, and more so the class that engaged in war; the nobility. However, even though the argument is still maintained that many went to atone for sin and to utilize a means for repaying grave sins through this severe penance, the fact that most of Europe remained at home still begs for greater study on the feelings of those that remained behind. Was all of Europe truly in a state of fear before the gates of hell? Clearly not.

Without a doubt, Riley-Smith is very through in examining the question of cost versus material gain for those going on crusade. The fact that a person returned at all was in itself cause for praise, and even Dr. Riley-Smith's findings in chapter six of the book, demonstrates that almost 99% of the crusaders suffered severe losses instead of gains. The arguments made in the book also take into account the notion that Europe was getting rid of unwanted males that were making too much of a drain on the financial resources of their families. Riley-Smith aptly points out through many examples that in fact, many a family was forced to do damage control and protect as much of the family patrimony as possible when members of the family made the financially disastrous decision to go on crusade.

Finally, this work is a study of prosopography, the study of a relationships between various members through affiliation, friendship, and most importantly through family. Tracing every crusader named in the primary chronicles and charters, Riley-Smith has built a base for his analysis through a frequency of common behaviors or actions, and through familial connections that suggest sometimes favoritism and self promotion and on the other hand unity amongst leaders.

Though by the nature of the materials available, the work focuses primarily on the nobility while the commoners are obscured, the information challenges historians to ask questions of medieval society that demand answers regarding general opinion of the people of medieval Europe. While Riley-Smith's work suggests that much of Europe was involved in an active way in the period his book covers, questions remain as to whether or not the general populous remained either skeptical or incredulous at the sight of armed men leaving wives, children, and lands for perhaps ever, to fight an enemy that was not even on their own kingdom lands. If one thing Riley-Smith does not cover here, is the effect of faith and reason in the medieval period that rationalizes the choice to move forward when all rational reasons fail.
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Product Details

Riley-Smith, Jonathan
Cambridge University Press
Riley-Smith, Jonathan
Cambridge, U.K.
Church History
Europe - General
First, 1096-1099
Crusades -- First, 1096-1099.
Christianity -- History.
Christianity - History - General
World History - Medieval and Renaissance
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Trade paper
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
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1 b/w illus. 5 maps
9.24x6.24x.67 in. .93 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Western Civilization » Medieval
History and Social Science » World History » European History General
History and Social Science » World History » General
History and Social Science » World History » Medieval and Renaissance
Religion » Christianity » Church History » General
Science and Mathematics » Biology » Evolution

The First Crusaders, 1095-1131 New Trade Paper
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Product details 320 pages Cambridge University Press - English 9780521646031 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , A detailed account of the circumstances and motives of the first crusaders.
"Synopsis" by , A detailed account of the circumstances and motives of the first crusaders.
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