The Crusades: a Short History by Johnathan Riley-Smith

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The Crusades: A Short History by Johnathan Riley-Smith

The Crusades: A Short History, written by British Historian Jonathan Riley-Smith, offers a broad overview of this part of the medieval era, but he also explores how historians have attempted to explain these events in modern terms. Riley-Smith also makes sure to note all major contributors to the Crusade movement and their personalities. Numerous scholars have wondered whether this was a political or religious mission. This helps to spark the question of why people would leave their homes and their families to risk their lives invading a land that was thousands of miles away for religious reasons. In his book, Riley-Smith makes this era come alive for the modern reader. He does a very good job of leaving it up to the reader to decide and interpret the material how they wish. He seems to have no bias.

Johnathan Riley-Smith begins with the birth of the crusading movement and the ideas that led to the actual crusades. The background information about the beliefs of these societies and foundations of their pasts help the reader to understand why they believed the way that they did. He proceeds chronologically through ten chapters to the "Old Age and Death of the Crusading Movement," which occurred between 1523 and 1798. Riley-Smith shows how the violence of the Crusades was justified according to the beliefs of that era. The people of that era compared this military action in terms of the intentions involved. Almost, in a manner comparable to that of a surgeon who causes pain to a patient in order to save a life. But, also, he shows how the crusaders understood the topic of authority and politics. This involved viewing the Holy Land as an "earthly extension to Christ's universal empire," which meant that, to them, the Holy Land was Christ's "royal domain or patrimony".

Many scholars now tend to interpret the Crusades with modern ideology, concentrating on factors that relate to establishment,...
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