For over 400 years, crusaders ("those signed by the cross"), out of Christian zeal, a declared love for their fellow man, and, in many cases, a simple desire for fortune, glory, and heavenly reward, marched to the Holy Land to battle both a real and perceived threat to their way of life and their religious beliefs. The story of the many crusades are filled with an unremitting passion to keep or return the home of Christianity to Christians. It is also filled with death, destruction, disorder, greed, avarice, and self-interest on all sides. Much of what occurred during the Crusades has come down to us today in the form of continued suspicion among religious ideologies - not only between Christians and Muslims, but also internally among Christian sects and, to some degree, among Muslim sects. There is certainly much to learn about our own history from a better understanding of the Crusades and what led so many to crusade.
©2005 Thomas F. Madden; (P)2005 Recorded Books
As an introduction to the crusades this couldn't be better. Told in a series of lectures by the author, each is highly informative, and contain none of the self indulgent digressions you sometimes hear at university. The author has a good reading voice and clearly is on top of his subject. I will be trying more of this series.
The subject is obviously well understood and researched. The lecturer is good at making it clear what things (like motivation of some of the historical figures) we are not absolutely sure about and his presentation style was easy to settle into.
I listened to this going to work each day and found it easy to follow, interesting enough to keep listening, and easy to pick up again on the next commute without having lost the thread.
I also think it was nice that it didn't sell religious justification but also didn't hide from it, presenting motivations as social factors. In the end, I didn't find any villains nor did I find any heroes, just men trying to live as best they could given their training and environment. Can we judge them? Sure. Can we blame them? Maybe. Can we learn from them? Definitely.
The one thing I did take away, is that armies periodically do stupid things and the history of the Crusades, certainly prove this repeatedly. I definitely understand the motivations and history of the Crusades more clearly and might listen to it again sometime.
God Wills It!: Understanding the Crusades, was my second set of lectures from Professor Madden (the first one being "Empire of Gold", the History of the Bizantine Empire).
As before, Professor Madden's lecture text does a splendid job of bringing to life a periof of history which everyone has heard about, but which very few people actually know, even superficially. If you like history and have ever wondered what the Crusades were REALLY all about, then these lectures are for you.
In addition, Professor Madden's delivery, which was a bit halting at times in the other set of lectures, is excellent in this one.
"Excellent set of lectures!"
I would recomand this to anyone who would like to understand the crusades.
They are well thought out and brilliantly delivered.
"An Excellent education"
These lectures are very well done by this outstanding author himself. I learned a tremendous overview of the crusades. I highly recommend it.
"Just what I was looking for!"
I would highly recommend this for the person (like myself) who wanted to know details of what caused the Crusades, how they were fought, how it impacted Christianity and Islam, and the motivations of both groups. Easy to listen to, told in story format with an easy to listen to voice. I feel I have a basis now to understand present world events in a more in a more informed manner....
Coming from a Christian background, I knew most of the foundation principles of Christianity. Lecture 2 describes the beginnings of Islam (from a description of how Muhammed began the religion) and was very interesting.
""Understanding the Crusades" says it all"
This was exactly the book I was hoping to find: an extensive overview of what the Crusades were and what they meant. Not so much detail that would bore. And delivered extremely well. Loved this book. Thanks.
I wish I could have heard a preview of this book, as I couldn't decide what book was the one I wanted. I was lucky to find this one.
This book was adequate in laying out the foundations of the atmosphere and culture in which the crusades took place. However, it lacked a richness of detail that one would expect from an instructor with genuine enthusiasm for the subject. It was presented very much the way a professor would teach a class taken as a requirement, one in which he suspects the students harbor little interest. I have listened to many Great Courses classes and expected the same level of energy displayed by teachers of other topics. This lack of enthusiasmn resulted in straight-forward facts with no added color or nuance, something that, for me, took away from the strength of the topic. Otherwise, the lecture was clear, concise, and informative.
"Boring rendition of potentially gripping material"
I am a professor of history and generally love a good history lecture. I gave this a really good shot and listened to 9/10 of it, but couldn't even manage to finish. Granted, I do not specialize in medieval Europe and may not be as fascinated by that time and place as another listener, but in general I found the lectures to be very similar to one another, and rather devoid of information on how the crusades changed history. I was looking for something more engaging. At the end of some of the lectures a member of the audience asks a question; the questions are generally very interesting, and Professor Madden's responses are usually lacking in detail and somewhat perfunctory. Moreover, a picky point but one worth mentioning is that Professor Madden's voice is somewhat monotone.
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