God’s War: A New History of the Crusades

J.L. Nelson writes:

Christopher Tyerman offers ‘a new history’. He has the scholarly credentials, having written extensively and illuminatingly on the subject for nearly three decades. He never sentimentalises the crusades. Yet the man who observed not long ago that ‘Europe in the Middle Ages could be a very nasty place to live: the crusades made it marginally nastier,’ here adopts a tone that is both more measured and more sympathetic to the crusaders, whose sacrifices and sufferings have evidently come to impress him profoundly. In one important respect his take on the subject is new, in the sense of being at odds with a strong historiographical trend. Tyerman explicitly distances himself from ‘the religious’ and their ‘fond myth that piety excludes greed, coercion, conformity and lack of reflection, that it is freestanding’. ‘The religious’ is code for historians who, like many working on medieval religious themes, are driven in part by Roman Catholic commitment.

(LRB 29 November 2007)

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