There are many movies about the Crusades – an ideological and religious extension of Christianity. While movies and literature, at times, exaggerate and add romantic fervours to this massacre and fanaticism, the reality may have been different at that time. The Crusades, undoubtedly, remained the only medium for the spread of the Christian faith in a large part of Europe and other parts of the world. (Civilising the ‘others’ came later and then missionary propaganda started that still continues in various parts of the world.) Well, there is a reason I began with these rants.
In a book I read recently, The World of the Crusades by Christopher Tyreman, there are many interesting observations that will surprise, shock or at least compel many to think. The extract with which I would love to begin my opinions about this book is:
“While enthusiasm and ideology may have initiated crusades, their viability, conduct and course depended on the availability of adequate food and drink.”
In this book by Tyerman, there are many things that surprise you even as an informed person. It is because we get the largest share of our public awareness by watching movies, reading novels, TV serials and popular culture. We seldom care to dive deep into the ocean of knowledge. Records of history, scholarly books, authentic studies of historical resources and other doorways into our past provide us with those opportunities to authentically relook at our history and understand the true nature of actions, calls to action, ideas, consequences… and more. How many times do we act such?
The World of the Crusades by Tyerman brings such an opportunity to the readers. By reading this book, a person can analyse the probable cause of the Christian Crusades – whether it was a mere reaction to the growing Islamic invasions or Jihad or there was more to it than meets our eyes. The author has scrutinised the historical evidence. He has also written in detail about the possible causes and concerns. He has also mulled the ambitious and monetary sides of such acts of war.
Christopher is right on most occasions and you will feel the same when you go through various chapters in this book. However, there are certain moments when the author seems the most accurate in his analysis of the given scenario. For example, when Christopher puts forth his argument about the rise of Christian sentiments and people trying to defend the Crusades by legitimising it as an act of self-defence or merely the act of safeguarding one’s important places or even as an act of reclaiming the places of holy importance (but robbed or captured by the Islamic warriors). There are many other assessments by the author that will startle the readers and surely compel them to read more and get across the length of the book. Scholars who take interest in reading and studying history extensively will find the book useful.
“The Military Orders provided crusading’s most original contribution to the institutions of medieval Christendom. Their combination of charitable purpose, religious discipline and armed violence tapped into aristocratic mentalities of aggressive piety and anxious self-justification.”
The book is not meant to be read by those who find history boring or too much to deal with on casual days (unless compelled to ‘study’). The author has certainly done extensive research required for writing a book on a subject as sensitive as this – the Crusades. Well, it will be very interesting to have an opportunity to know the actual history behind the oft-watched war scenes with flags of the Roman Empire, English Kings and the Spanish Kingdom… You can get a copy of this book from Amazon India today and enjoy reading it.
Review by Adarsh for The Last Critic