A breezy overview of the Crusades.
Remember when President Bush first called America’s “war on terror” a “crusade”? The PC police bristled, but, avers Paine was not a bad analogy. Indeed, current geopolitics require Americans and Brits to reacquaint themselves with the history of those medieval military ventures. In clear prose and bite-sized chapters, Paine traces the history of the Crusades from Pope Urban II’s call to arms in 1095 through the sacking of Constantinople in 1204 to the final fall of Ace in 1291. (His account of the Children’s Crusade is somewhat skimpy.) Readers will learn how disease sometimes crippled the Christian forces; early on, for example, Urban II’s right-hand man, the Bishop of Le Puy, was felled by what was probably typhoid. In general, Christian enthusiasm began to wane after the First Crusade, the author contends. The pope had been able to stir up great enthusiasm for winning Jerusalem, but generating the same enthusiasm about the sacrifices required to hold Jerusalem was another matter. Paine hails Saladin as the “greatest figure to take the field against the foreign invaders.” His leadership unified Muslims for a time, but after his death, they were beset by infighting. What was the result of this centuries-long conflict? The Italian city-states benefited from the trade sparked by the Crusades, and the Ottoman Turks arose from the rubble to form a mighty empire. But most of the fruits of these wars were rotten: huge financial costs and many deaths. Most significant, though, was the Crusades’ lasting impact on Muslim-Christian relations.
An adequate synopsis, though hardly original.