cover image Crusaders: The Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands

Crusaders: The Epic History of the Wars for the Holy Lands

Dan Jones. Viking, $30 (448p) ISBN 978-0-525-42831-2

Popular historian Jones (The Templars) looks in this accessible and thoroughly researched work at the medieval crusaders who, with the authorization of the Pope, took up arms to advance the causes of the Catholic church. This group included leaders and kings who led the well-known Middle Eastern crusaders, such as Richard the Lionhearted; crusaders who fought on the Iberian Peninsula and against northern European pagans; and the major Islamic opponents, such as the leader Saladin. Jones relates the story as much as possible through the words of surviving accounts from the period. The early chapters examine the motivation and strategy behind the first crusade, culminating with the capture of Jerusalem; the middle of the book describes the buildup of crusader power and culminates with its destruction at the Battle of Hattin and the loss of Jerusalem to Islamic forces under Saladin; and the final part of the book documents the slow demise of crusader power in the Middle East and the extermination of the last crusader stronghold at Acre in 1298. Jones paints a vivid and accurate picture of the culture, politics, and personalities of the crusading period, covering vast swaths of history and many personalities with aplomb. The general reader of history and those interested in a deeper understanding of relations between Islam and the West will find this work engaging and informative. [em](Oct.) [/em]