'A nuanced and sophisticated analysis... Exhilarating' Sunday Telegraph
Nine hundred years ago, one of the most controversial episodes in Christian history was initiated. The Pope stated that, in spite of the apparently pacifist message of the New Testament, God actually wanted European knights to wage a fierce and bloody war against Islam and recapture Jerusalem. Thus was the First Crusade born.
Focusing on the characters that drove this extraordinary campaign, this fascinating period of history is recreated through awe-inspiring and often barbaric tales of bold adventure while at the same time providing significant insights into early medieval society, morality and mentality. The First Crusade marked a watershed in relations between Islam and the West, a conflict that set these two world religions on a course towards deep-seated animosity and enduring enmity. The chilling reverberations of this earth-shattering clash still echo in the world today.
'[Asbridge] balances persuasive analysis with a flair for conveying with dramatic power the crusaders' plight' Financial Times
In 1095, Pope Urban II preached a fiery sermon that changed the course of Western history: he urged Christian warriors to take up the sword and defend their brothers in the East who had been defeated by the Muslims, and to retake the holy city of Jerusalem, then under Islamic control. Asbridge, a British authority on the Crusades, brilliantly re-creates the three-year history of the First Crusade, chronicling its difficulties and victories, not downplaying its brutality but emphasizing its genuinely religious impulse. He vividly recounts the terrible winter of 1096 in Antioch, which reduced the Christian armies from 100,000 to 30,000. Focusing on the warriors' beliefs, Asbridge astutely points out that the warriors interpreted this as God's cleansing of the weaker and less committed fighters and concluded that victory was ordained for the survivors in the final, bloody battles. Asbridge also observes that the Christian forces acted less out of an inborn hatred of Islam than out of a desire for a place in heaven if they died in battle. While relations between Christianity and Islam did not break down immediately as a result of the crusaders' triumph, later pro-war propaganda on both sides drove a wedge between the two religions. Asbridge combines fast-paced history writing, evocative prose and lucid research for a first-rate history of the First Crusade. B&w illus., 9 maps.