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.
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Original, engaging, fast-paced, this is history at its best. Phillips lays bare the complex history of the period, both past and its long-term consequences. Poets, knights, politicians, schemers, queens, celebrated and forgotten, all are brought to life in this wonderful A - Z of the Crusades. - Kate Mosse
Holy Warriors is not only very readable, its skilful and detailed use of source material serves as a showcase of what is being done in this, the most intensively studied area of medieval historiography - Literary Review
He [Phillips] has a real gift for highlighting the picturesque and for bringing the past alive... with its crisp management, accessible style and deft characterisation, this book stakes a strong claim to be the most appealing narrative account of the Crusades for a general audience - BBC History Magazine
A superb book, one written with an elegant blend of clarity and zest. Its author demonstrates his mastery of all the relevant scholarship, from the oldest to the most recent, but he may be most successful in his ability to capture the spirit of the various crusades through word portraits of some of their most memorable human characters. Readers will find it difficult to put this gripping book down. -
Jonathan Phillips is Professor of Crusading History at Royal Holloway, University of London. He is the author of The Second Crusade: Extending the Frontiers of Christianity; The Fourth Crusade and the Sack of Constantinople; The Crusades, 1095-1197; Defenders of the Holy Land, 1119-1187 and the co-editor of three academic essay collections on the Crusades. He has made numerous radio and television appearances, including: Boris Johnson and the Dream of Rome; The Crusades (with Rageh Omaar) in the Christianity series on Channel 4, and The Crescent and the Cross.