The New Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden

Since the crusades are a topic more commonly misunderstood than understood, one should be careful when researching information on them. The best books are written by scholars who have done research in the field for a long time (primary sources are good too, but they make little sense unless one is already familiar with their history). Thomas F. Madden, author of The New Concise History of the Crusades, is chair of the medieval history department and a professor of medieval history at Saint Louis University, a university recognized for its outstanding medieval research library and one of the most prolific places for crusader research. Madden is, most importantly, a scholar and a historian who specializes in this field.

Madden recognizes that a great deal of scholarly work on the crusades is inaccessible to people who are not medieval scholars, so The New Concise History has been written for a popular audience using Madden’s wealth of scholarly research. I can think of no better introduction to the crusades than this book.

Madden deals with the crusades in the chronological divisions recognized by most popular sources, though he notes the problems with such divisions. He focuses largely, though not solely, on the European perspective of the crusades. The most valuable aspect of The New Concise History is that Madden clearly outlines the motivations behind the crusades from the perspective of historical medieval thought. A great deal of inaccurate information about the crusades stems from analyzing them from a modern perspective rather than a medieval one, so Madden constantly addresses the difference between the two viewpoints and how the conflict has led to inaccurate stereotypes. He deals both with chronological events and the people who stood out along the timeline. Madden touches briefly on events in Europe considered crusades, but focuses almost entirely on crusades that took place in the Holy Land. Finally, Madden ends by analyzing the perception of the crusades from the Renaissance to the modern era and how the views of individual authors have affected the predominant view of history.

Table of Contents

  • List of Maps
  • Preface
  • Chronology
  • The Call
    • The First Crusade
    • The Rise of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Second Crusade
    • The Decline of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Third Crusade
    • The Fourth Crusade
    • Crusading at Home
    • The Fifth Crusade and the Crusade of Frederick II
    • The Crusades of St. Louis
    • The Later Crusades
    • The Legacy of the Crusades
  • Conclusion
  • Glossary
  • Discussion Questions
  • Select Bibliography
  • Sources in Translation
  • Index
  • About the Author

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