Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction - Christopher Tyerman

The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction
Christopher Tyerman
Oxford University Press
Copyright: 2004

A very short introduction describes this book very well, considering it's only 167 pages including index and 'further reading'. As a result, I found it to be too short in many ways, mostly in that the author would make a mention of something interesting, and then leave it, without giving any further information. It made it feel like the book wasn't really written for people without any knowledge of the period. Examples include: on page 8: a mention that the oath crusaders took was structured very like that which a pilgrim took, for one. So, what was the oath a pilgrim would take? Also, mentioning that in Outremer after a certain date clothing laws were put in place to differentiate between Christian, Muslim and Jew, mentioned on page 116. More information please, or at least a source where I can find more information myself?

My other issue with this book is, it seems, one with the entire series: a lack of quotes and citations, the latter being especially annoying to me. I like knowing that I have the option of having more information I can find, even if I don't generally go to the cited sources.

That is my general complaint with the book, and also with the other book in the series that I've read, the Roman Empire: A Very Short Introduction. They just don't have the room to go into any details.

If what you're looking for is a book of dates, origins of the Crusades and holy war and the like, not to mention various interpretations and iterations of the same over the centuries, without a lot of the details in a more specific work, this is a potentially useful book.

I found it useful as an introduction to Christopher Tyerman's style, as I also have Fighting for Christendom (which is apparently the same book as this one) and his more recent book God's War. I think, based on Tyerman's writing in The Crusades: A Very Short Introduction, I'm going to enjoy reading his other books, always assuming he's going to go into more detail. I think though, he'll have the space to do so.

Other medieval history books I've reviewed:
Pilgrimages - John Ure
The Worlds Of Medieval Europe - Clifford R. Backman
Reading The Middle Ages - Barbara Rosenwein
Life In A Medieval Village - Francis And Joseph Gies
1215: The Year Of The Magna Carta - Danny Danziger and John Gillingham
By Sword And Fire - Sean McGlynn

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