About the book
Holy war: Christianity versus Islam. Brutality, greed, honour, chivalry; the clink of chain mail, the clatter of hooves, the call of the muezzin. Such are the stock ingredients of the Crusades. But to what extent do the stereotypes fit with the reality?
In his remarkable new book, Jonathan Phillips explores this conflict of ideas, beliefs and cultures and shows both the contradictions and the diversity of holy war: friendships and alliances between Christians and Muslims; triumphs of diplomacy rather than the sword; the launch of crusades against Christians, and calls for jihads against Muslims.
Phillips draws on contemporary writings - on chronicles, songs, sermons, travel diaries, letters, financial accounts and peace treaties - to throw a brilliant new lights on people and events we thought we knew well: the bloody conquest of Jerusalem in the First Crusade; the titanic struggle between Richard the Lionheart and Saladin; the breathtaking naivety of the Children's Crusade; and the ruthless suppression of the Knight's Templar.
Less familiar but no less central are the stories of the intimidating and astute politician, Queen Melisende of Jerusalem; the fiery preacher, Al-Sulami; the Arab-speaking excommunicate and Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II.
Over time the Crusades were directed against a variety of opponents: not only Muslims in the Middle East but against Cathar heretics, political enemies of the papacy, the Mongols, pagan tribes of northern Europe, and the Ottoman Turks. Although the notion of fighting for one's faith fell into disrepute in the Enlightenment, in a final chapter Jonathan Phillips traces the crusading impulse up to the present day - to George W. Bush's characterization of the war on terrorism as a crusade.
Vivid, original and illuminating, Holy Warriors provides an unparalleled account of one of the great cultural, political and religious movements in world history.