The topic of the Crusades remains enduringly popular and has experienced a public resurgence following the attacks of September 11, 2001. Of course, as with any popular historical subject, most of the books covering it leave much to be desired, from James Reston’s pulpy and inaccurate pageturner Warriors of God to nonsensical conspiracy works about the Knights Templar inspired by Dan Brown. Meanwhile, hefty scholarly tomes like Christopher Tyerman’s God’s War are often stultifying. The result is that despite fifty years of additional books being published and improved scholarship, Sir Steven Runciman’s famously handwritten History of the Crusades remains the best-known work on the subject, even though it was well characterized by the modern expert Thomas Madden as “terrible history yet wonderfully entertaining.”

Seeking to supplant Runciman in its telling of the First Crusade is...

 

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