One of my continuing aims in 2014 is to try to read more non-fiction in particular about history. I noticed that at the beginning of 2013 different editions of A Very Brief History series by Mark Black were being offered for free on Amazon so I started collecting them. After enjoying the Tudor editions from the collection so much I was keen to read more. While I read six of Black’s histories last year until now I had read none this year. To rectify that I had a mooch at the beginning of October through the editions I had left and picked The Crusades.
Before reading The Crusades all I really knew was that many wars were waged in the Middle East by Roman Christian nations in the vain hope of obtaining the holy city of Jerusalem. The crusades originally began when Byzantine Christians came under threat from the growing Islamic movement and appealed to their Roman counterparts for aid. What they got instead was a bloody rampage that saw knights, lords, kings and commoners a like pillaging, raping and murdering Muslims, Jews and Christians a like. The only individuals I knew that had taken part was England’s well loved King Richard the Lionheart, the Knights Templar, and the great warrior leader Saladin. What I learnt from reading The Crusades was that nine crusades were launched in total between the years of 1095 and 1272. All of which but the first crusade were pretty much futile and unsuccessful. There weren’t just crusades launched in the Middle East either. A crusade was waged into Spain to defeat and oust the Muslims that had settled there. Another crusade was waged against small fringe Christian groups; like the Cathars in the South of France. And another crusade was waged against the Slav pagans living in Eastern Europe. Basically if you weren’t a Roman Christian in this period you could be a target.
This brief history of The Crusades is separated into chapters on the religious background, the political background, the situation in Western Europe and then a chapter on each of the nine crusades; chronicling who was involved, what was gained and/or lost. Now this is called a very brief history and they aren’t lying if you are someone looking for an in-depth history of the crusades you won’t find it here. However I thought it was a wonderful introduction and taster of the important events from the period. I also thought each chapter was really interesting and could be great starting places to discover what you would like to read and research further.
I am glad I discovered Mark Black and his A Very Brief History series in 2013. Sadly I haven’t read any more from this series till now. I really can’t leave it so long next time. I thought The Crusades was clear, concise and well-written. Each chapter was an easy bite-size length and the chapters flowed really well. The previous editions I read on the Tudors and Victorians I managed to finish off in only one or two sittings. This took me a couple of sittings to finish off as I dipped in and out of it between other books. A good read for when you don’t have a huge amount of time. I easily squeezed one or two chapters in when I had a break.
The Crusades was a simple introduction into the angry, bloody and confusing time of the crusades. I recommend to those interested in reading more about history. I have plenty more editions from this series still to read.
Have you read about the crusades? Any recommendations?