The Crusaders: The Struggle for the Holy Land by Régine Pernoud

Since Régine Pernoud is one of my favorite historians, I was bound to get to this book eventually. The Crusaders is, like every other book of hers, well-researched and a fabulous piece on its topic. The Crusaders is different from most other histories of the Crusades in that it is not organized according to chronology; it is organized by types of people. This makes it an excellent introduction to the Crusades because many people are interested in the motivations for the Crusades, not just the dates.

Pernoud writes on the best of men and the worst of men on both sides of the Crusades. She mentions the stereotypes of history that have incorrectly influenced modern perceptions while helping the reader to understand the true cultural climate. Occasionally, Pernoud uses narratives to highlight certain important events. For example, she begins the book with Bishop Günter of Bamberg and the massacre of the pilgrims he was leading to the Holy Land to illustrate the type of threat that was a major motivation for the Crusades. I find this writing technique to be the engaging and best for facilitating memory of the cultural climate and the events in question.

Sometimes, Pernoud deals with types of people—priests, knights, women. Sometimes, she deals with individuals, such as the short chapter dedicated to Louis IX (St. Louis). Most chapters are organized this way, but some are organized according to technical methods used on the Crusades, such as financing or the importance of engineers. This book is valuable for the medievalist, but it is especially valuable for the non-medievalist because it is organized to answer the types of questions one would most likely ask when saying, “I want to know more about the Crusades.” The Crusades is not as valuable a resource as Pernoud’s others for finding original documents, but it has a wealth of information on people and events for further research. It also includes a bibliography which has books both in English and in French.

Table of Contents

  • Translator’s Preface
  • Introduction
  • Nonviolence and Nonresistance
  • Part One: The Men
    • The Pope of the First Crusade
    • The Poor
    • The Barons
    • The Churchmen
    • The Women
    • The Grain and the Chaff
  • Part Two: Technical Methods
    • The Organization of the Conquest
    • The Engineers and the Builders
    • Finance and Propaganda
  • Part Three: The Spirit of Conquest
    • The Kings and the Merchants
    • The Coronation of an Emperor
    • The Temptation of Egypt
  • Part Four: Mysticism and Politics
    • The Monk and the Sultan
    • The Crusader without Faith
    • The Perfect Crusader
  • Part Five: The End of the World
    • The Last Act
    • The Planner and the Saint
  • Bibliography

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