THE DREAM AND THE TOMB: A History of the Crusades by Robert Payne

THE DREAM AND THE TOMB: A History of the Crusades

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A long but narrow popular history: an unsatisfactory account that begins by repeating the clichÉ-canard that the Saracens were ""sensual to an extraordinary degree and at the same time unbelievably hard, cruel, and ruthless""--and ends on the sentimental note that after their 200-year adventure failed, the Crusaders at long last ""discovered that Jerusalem was not a geographical place. It was a place in the human heart."" In a mixed performance typical of many of his works, Payne (who died in 1983) covers the military-political dimension of the Crusades, mostly from the Christian point of view--while neglecting matters sociological, economic, and religious (the latter treated simplistically); largely ignoring the European environment that launched the Crusades and was permanently changed by them; and in general overstressing their tragic and heroic, as opposed to sordid elements. Payne devotes two chapters to the Venetian sack of Constantinople but omits the massacre of Rhenish Jews during the First Crusade (along with the grim harvest of anti-Semitism sown by the Crusades as a whole). He thinks that Byzantium and the kingdom of Jerusalem might still be standing today except for the lamentable dissension between Latins and Byzantines--as if both states were not ultimately doomed. He regrets the blunders that led to catastrophic western defeats at the Horns of Hattin, La Forbie, and Damietta--as if victories would have somehow justified the ocean of blood spilled. Payne's basic problem is that, though he doesn't blink at the horrors of war, he views the Crusades with uncritical generosity. (""A Crusade was a many-tongued act of prayer. It answered the need to come close to Christ, to be intimately aware of his abiding presence."") His prose is serviceable, but the narrative is just too unbalanced. Readers looking for an informative survey of the Crusades should consult Finucane's better--and briefer--Soldiers of the Faith (above), along with Hans Eberhard Mayer's established history.

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1983
ISBN: 0815410867
Publisher: Stein & Day