People of the First Crusade

Michael Foss, Author
Michael Foss, Author Arcade Publishing $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-55970-414-4
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-55970-455-7
Hardcover - 978-1-85479-674-5
Hardcover - 232 pages - 978-1-84067-155-1
Paperback - 244 pages - 978-1-61145-093-4
Paperback - 232 pages - 978-1-61145-329-4
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As a concise popular history, People of the First Crusade gives an engaging overview of the reasons for the first great Christian-Muslim ""holy war,"" its gruesome progress and the confused aftermath. This is by no means a scholarly work (there is no bibliography and no footnotes), but Foss (The World of Camelot, Gods and Heroes) describes the historical background clearly enough for the general reader. To back up his belief that ""the history of this crusade is as much a study in character as a story of warfare,"" Foss focuses on several major figures: Pope Urban, who had multiple motives for proposing the Crusade; the aristocratic leaders whose infighting weakened the Christian forces; and the wily Byzantine Emperor Alexius, who deftly played all sides. The most effective passages are the contemporary accounts--both Christian and Muslim--of those who survived the three-year ordeal. These include some very vivid images of suffering that illustrate how ideals were soon buried in the rush for loot and power: Contrary to the ideal of chivalrous knights, the nobility were responsible for some of the worst savagery. Foss ultimately interprets the Crusade as a successful popular uprising. Since commoners provided most of the army's strength and kept the focus on Jerusalem, the ultimate conquest of the city seemed to prove that ""God had given a stamp of approval to the aspirations and achievements of the poor."" 22 illustrations, 7 maps. (Oct.)
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