The Catholic Historical Review 89.3 (2003) 543-544
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The Crusades: The Essential Readings. Edited by Thomas F. Madden. [Blackwell Essential Readings in History.] (Williston, Vermont: Blackwell Publishing. 2002. Pp. xii, 276; 2 maps. $62.95 hardback; $26.95 paperback.)
This volume is part of Blackwell's series "Essential Readings in History," which reprints significant articles about a specific topic for student use. This volume could easily complement Madden's earlier A Concise History of the Crusades (Rowan and Littlefield, 1999). Most of Madden's selections were published within the past twenty years. They reflect the traditional interpretation of [End Page 543] the crusades that places Jerusalem at the focal point of the movement and assumes that the crusades ended by 1300. All but three articles are written by English scholars, and most focus on French participation in the crusades. The Spanish Reconquest is represented by R. A. Fletcher, the Byzantine empire by the late Steven Runciman, and Nikita Elisséeff and Benjamin Kedar write about the Muslim populations.
The articles are organized into three sections. Part I asks, "What were the Crusades?" This section examines the origins of the movement and the early development of the crusade idea. Part II asks, "Who were the Crusaders?" Giles Constable's "Medieval Charters as a Source for the History of the Crusades" lays out the methodology employed in this section, which describes the use of diplomatic sources to identify individual crusaders and their motivation. Part III, instead of posing a question, states the "Impact of the Crusades on the East." Here, the format of the Blackwell series reveals its limitations, as three articles would be inadequate to describe the impact, and the best scholarship on the topic is not published in English.
Madden's thoughtful introduction describes the historiography of crusade studies in an accessible way. He includes modern perspectives, touching on the post-September 11 political and religious context. Madden also wrote individual introductions for each article that explain the role the article plays in the ongoing scholarly debate. It is convenient to have so many important articles in one well-edited volume, suitable for courses focusing on the First Crusade (1095) and its aftermath.
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