The Crusades: A Reader
This book belongs to a series by Broadview press where we can find different primary sources (texts) upon one specific subject together. It is always a tricky business to review a book such as this one based on a selection of historical texts that tries to show the phenomenon of the crusades for undergraduate college students; everybody has their own likes and interests. This is not the first time, nor it will be last, that will be reviewing a book that has gathered crusade texts, although one of the good points is that here you have both Christian and Muslim sources. First of all we should not confuse this book with The Crusades: The Essential Readings, edited by Thomas F. Madden (Blackwell Publishing. 2002), which reprints significant modern articles about this specific topic for student use.
To start with, it must be said that this book is already being used in a wide spectrum of scholarly institutions. Secondly it offers nothing new as all the texts are already known (this is a reprint) and even available on the web. And, thirdly, the editor must choose which school of crusading historiography s/he is going to follow: singularist, pluralist, pluralist-legal?
Let´s analyse it. The book is focused in the "traditional" time span of the crusades, 1095-1291(fall of Acre)-1313, although it offers some texts before (11) and after (9) that era (20%); with a geographical framework ranging from the Baltic area, passing through the Iberian Peninsula, and up to the Holy Land. One can access to the contents in the following URL: www.broadviewpress.com/bvcontents.asp?BookID=620. This book should not be the only one used in class, and, for example it would also be of interest to count it with other works such as Thomas A. Fudge's, The Crusade against Heretics in Bohemia, 1418-1437: sources and documents for the Hussite crusades (Ashgate, 2002) and N. Housley´s, Documents on the Later Crusades, 1274-1580 (Macmillan Press, 1996). In fact in useing Allen and Amt, one is missing documents on the jihad, the military orders, the crusade preaching, and the later crusades (as the hussite wars). Fortunately we have the world wide web with really great sites to look upon for more sources such as the ORB, Helen Nicholson´s page on the Military Orders, the Gallica Project (BNfr) and Paul Hallsall´s magnificent Internet History Sourcebook.
Some chapters seem to be a bit limp. For example the Spanish chapter seems to have no point in focus. This reminds me that under the term "texts" we find letters, laws, chapters of chronicles and songs. In this case the editor jumps from the Alfonso X's Seven Partidas (c1220) to the conquest of Granada and the expulsion of Jews (1492)... was there no crusading activity in between?
Every chapter is accompanied by a series of questions aimed at the students to try to push them to reach some conclusions. However this reviewer wishes there had been a bit more of help, for example maps and chronological tables - this would have been a plus.
To sum up, no doubt this is a very useful tool in the class, but it ought not to be the only source book one uses.