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The First Crusade

A New History

Thomas Asbridge

Publication Date - 01 October 2004

ISBN: 9780195178234

448 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

A stunning narrative of one of the epic events of world history--the three-year, 3000-mile quest to conquer the Holy Land


On the last Tuesday of November 1095, Pope Urban II delivered an electrifying speech that launched the First Crusade. His words set Christendom afire. Some 100,000 men, from knights to paupers, took up the call--the largest mobilization of manpower since the fall of the Roman Empire.
Now, in The First Crusade, Thomas Asbridge offers a gripping account of a titanic three-year adventure filled with miraculous victories, greedy princes and barbarity on a vast scale. Readers follow the crusaders from their mobilization in Europe (where great waves of anti-Semitism resulted in the deaths of thousands of Jews), to their arrival in Constantinople, an exotic, opulent city--ten times the size of any city in Europe--that bedazzled the Europeans. Featured in vivid detail are the siege of Nicaea and the pivotal battle for Antioch, the single most important military engagement of the entire expedition, where the crusaders, in desperate straits, routed a larger and better-equipped Muslim army. Through all this, the crusaders were driven on by intense religious devotion, convinced that their struggle would earn them the reward of eternal paradise in Heaven. But when a hardened core finally reached Jerusalem in 1099 they unleashed an unholy wave of brutality, slaughtering thousands of Muslims--men, women, and children--all in the name of Christianity.
The First Crusade marked a watershed in relations between Islam and the West, a conflict that set these two world religions on a course toward deep-seated animosity and enduring enmity. The chilling reverberations of this earth-shattering clash still echo in the world today.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Asbridge is Lecturer in Early Medieval History at Queen Mary, University of London. An acknowledged expert on the history of the Crusades, he has traveled extensively in the Near East following the route of the First Crusade.


"This lively account of the Crusade looks set to replace Steven Runciman's classic 1951 account of the expedition as the best introduction to the subject....Asbridge's book gives exactly the sort of fast-flowing narrative the story demands. He writes clearly and vigorously, with a fine eye for telling detail. Having walked considerable parts of the itinerary the Crusade followed, he presents a vivid picture of the landscapes they passed through. He admires the crusaders' hardiness and extraordinary boldness without condoning cruelties they inflicted....Recommended to a general reader who wants an introduction to the Crusades."--Hugh Kennedy, The New York Times Book Review

"Asbridge combines fast-paced history writing, evocative prose and lucid research for a first-rate history of the First Crusade....Brilliantly re-creates the three-year history of the First Crusade, chronicling its difficulties and victories, not downplaying its brutality but emphasizing its genuinely religious impulse."--Publishers Weekly

"Balances persuasive analysis with a flair for conveying with dramtic power the crusaders' plight throughout the nine-month siege of Antioch....Stunning...should revitalize the study of this fascinating period in European history."--Christopher Silvester, The Financial Times

"Rousing....Asbridge knows this territory well. In 1999, he even walked 350 miles of the crusaders' route."--Christian Science Monitor

"Asbridge, in keeping with his aim to produce a popular history, writes with maximum vividness."--Joan Acocella, The New Yorker

"Asbridge has produced a taut, clear and exciting narrative, which also manages to convey the best of modern Crusader scholarship....His pace is tremendous, and he has a remarkable feel of place. It certainly helps that, like so many Crusaders nine centuries ago, Asbridge has himself walked 350 miles from Antioch towards Jerusalem."--The Guardian

"Although well researched, the book wears its scholarship lightly and reads like a work of fiction, complete with vivid characters."--The Herald (Glasgow)

"Asbridge achieves vivid characterization and gripping storytelling without sacrifice of scholarship. Interweaving analysis, narrative, evocative description and occasional wry humor, he tells us--as no other book on the subject really does--who the crusaders were, how they behaved, how they killed and died and, most surprisingly of all, how they survived and triumphed."--Felipe Fernández-Armesto, author of Millennium and Civilizations

"There is an underlying assumption among commentators looking at the confrontation between Islam and the West that it has been engendered by the events of September 11, 2001. Thomas Asbridge, by tracing the roots to the First Crusade in his lucid and provocative 'new history,' helps us to understand the present by explaining the past."--Akbar S. Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies American University