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What Were the Crusades? [Paperback]

By Jonathan Riley-Smith (Author)
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Item Number 126302  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   128
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.48" Width: 5.56" Height: 0.3"
Weight:   0.38 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 31, 2002
Publisher   Ignatius Press
ISBN  0898709547  
EAN  9780898709544  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Few attempts have been made to define "the crusade" before the first edition of this book was published in 1977. Since then, a number of historians have built upon Jonathan Riley-Smith's conclusions. Their research has been incorporated into this new, thoroughly revised, third edition of a classic starting point for any study of the crusading movement. Among other key aspects, the book deals with causes for crusading, the legitimizing authority of the papacy, recruitment, and the nature of the crusade vow and its consequences. This new edition also features a useful chronology and brief biographies of some crusaders, both real and imaginary. Original in its conception, this essential guide is a contribution of major importance to crusading scholarship. In its clear and concise treatment of the issues, it remains an unequalled introduction to the subject for students and general readers alike.

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More About Jonathan Riley-Smith

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Jonathan Riley-Smith is Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Cambridge and is one of the world's leading authorities on the Crusades. His previous publications include The Atlas of the Crusades and The Crusades: A Short History.

Jonathan Riley-Smith has an academic affiliation as follows - University of Cambridge.

Jonathan Riley-Smith has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Oxford Illustrated Histories

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > History > World > General   [35342  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > History > World > Medieval   [3307  similar products]
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > General   [5549  similar products]
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism   [888  similar products]

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Item: 160396

Reviews - What do our customers think?
Good academic introduction  Mar 23, 2006
I found this book to be a good academic (maybe a bit boring) introduction to the subject of the crusades. It is not a garrish or sensational account of this Christian invasion of the Levant between the 11th and 13th centuries. Instead is an attempt to dispassionately classify the crusades in an academic manner while looking at the factors that instigated and allowed its continuation for 2 centuries.
One scholar's definition of "Crusade"  Jul 5, 2005
This slender volume by one of the world's leading scholars of the Crusading period is an excellent introductory on the subject. It has little to do with the various campaigns that made up the Crusades themselves, but rather offers a coherent definition of what a "Crusade" really was.

Riley-Smith argues that a "Crusade," to be considered as such, must meet all of the following criteria: 1) it must be an open, voluntary and temporary vow to perform military service in the defense of a Christian place or people; 2) the campaign must receive explicit papal advocacy; 3) the participants must be granted certain privileges generally extended to Christian pilgrims; and, most importantly, 4) participants must receive generous indulgences against sins in return for their service.

The author's definition is rather broad by other standards. For instance, he directly rejects the notion that the Crusades focused exclusively on the recapture of the Holy Lands, with a special emphasis on Jerusalem. But he also argues that actions that had an objective of national liberation (as opposed to the liberation of the Republic of Christ) and/or were led by secular monarchs rather than the pope - the Spanish Reconquista is the most obvious example - were not part of the crusading movement, properly defined. Neither were the actions undertaken by the various religious military orders that developed in the Middle Ages, such as the Knights Templar and the Hospitallers, because those groups maintained selective admission standards and their vow was permanent, not temporary.

The issue on which Riley-Smith differs most strongly and fundamentally with other leading scholars of the period is his belief that the motivations of the Crusaders were, in the main, pure and sincere. He argues that individual crusaders were driven primarily by self-interest in the offer of plenary indulgence (i.e. the complete remission of guilt and punishment for sins both on earth and in the afterlife) with only a secondary consideration in serving the Republic of Christ; avarice and the lure of plunder in the East played no part. The prospect of eternal salvation and the defense of God's Kingdom on Earth thus propelled the various campaigns that came to be known as the Crusades; they weren't smokescreens for conquest.

One final note: "What were the Crusades?" is concise and introductory, but it isn't light. Much of the material is dense and the first-time reader may find that they need to proceed slowly through the chapters to fully absorb the arguments. Also, a good follow up book to this one is the classic overview of the Crusades by the German historian Hans Eberhard Mayer. You'll quickly see the differences in opinion between these two leading scholars.
Brilliant intro  Apr 30, 2004
This book IS available in a sharp looking 100 page softcover from Ignatius Press. Its the 3rd edition with new intro since its original publication in 1977. Dr. Riley-Smith, full professor at Cambridge, is THE leading authority on the Crusades.

This book is a workout for the non-specialist. Its obstensibly an exercise in definition: Few ever bother to define what exactly is a 'Crusade' and what isn't -- he shows the different schools of thought on this question and renders his own judgment. In the process he gives an historic overview, a highly sophisticated commentary on the crusade ideal (and ways the actual practice fell short), and much more. One of the best succinct definitions of the Christian Just War theory I've ever seen (as well as Holy War theories that have fallen out of favor).

If this leaves you wnating more, check out Riley-Smith's masterful The Crusades: A Short History (Yale). Also see the special issue on the Crusades by Christain history magazine form a few years ago (back issues available from Christianity Today Institute online). It is richly illustrated and includes a masterful interview with Riley-Smith among other things for a few dollars.

Useful background and approach  Nov 23, 2003
Thanks to Islamism, the subject of the Crusades has gained new currency, indeed urgency. This is the third edition of a very useful introduction to the crusading enterprise by a distinguished professor of history at Cambridge. Who were the Crusaders, what did they believe they were doing, what were the moral legitimations of their cause? These and other questions are addressed, and the book includes a helpful annotated bibliography for the reader who wants to learn more. A first THings review
Not for beginners!  Oct 12, 2003
The title and brevity of this book would give the impression that it is an introduction to the subject of the Crusades for readers who don't know much about them yet. Nothing could be further from the truth. It contains a great deal of useful, enlightening information that would put the subject into perspective, but if one does not have a good grounding in medieval history, or thorough basic knowledge of the Crusades already, much of the book is uninterpretable. The author brings up the names of various medieval European kings (Henry IV, etc.) without bothering to mention what countries they ruled and when they lived. You can't figure this information out from context, because the author jumps around in time and geography a lot, sometimes three or more times in the same paragraph. He similarly brings up historical events that to the lay reader are completely obscure, and doesn't give any indication as to what they were. I can't tell if this book was written by an intellectual who is so far into his field that he has no idea what the average, well-educated reader doesn't know, or if it is just not intended for novices. In either case, before you can reap the benefits of this book, you need to find a basic book on the Crusades and educate yourself with that one first.

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