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The astonishing outbreak of religious fervour and military self-confidence that led to the great Christian expeditions to invade the Holy Land during the twelfth century have become such an established part of European myth that it has become almost impossible to view these events as they were seen by contemporaries. The towering historical figures (Frederick Barbarossa, Count Bohemond of Tarentum, Richard the Lionheart, Philip Augustus, Saladin) and the accompanying the panoply of images (the great sermons of the popes and St Bernard, the taking of the cross, the horrors of the People's Crusade) make the First, Second and Third Crusades vivid and real in a way denied much of medieval history.
However, were these in fact 'Crusades' at all? The later Crusades, from the ignominious Fourth Crusade onwards, tend to attract less attention because of their general lack of success. However, in this radical and compelling new treatment, Christopher Tyerman questions the very nature of our belief in the Crusades, showing how historians writing more than a century after the First Crusade retrospectively invented the idea of the 'Crusade.' Using these much later sources, all subsequent historians up to the present day have fallen into the same trap of following propaganda from a much later period to explain events that were understood quite differently by contemporaries. Put crudely, we know they were Crusades, but they did not.
This short book will be invaluable for all those teaching the Crusades - suggesting a new and stimulating view of this popular topic and allowing students to learn more about the complex and fascinating way that history comes to be written.
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