I just completed Thomas F. Madden’s The New Concise History of the Crusades, a nice hardcover edition published by Barnes & Noble in 2007. The main text clocks in a little over 200 pages and it covers the earlier crusades in some detail with attention also given to various crusades within Europe and a brief analysis of the impact of the crusades in the conclusion.
I had previously read James Reston Jr.’s Warriors of God: Richard the Lionheart and Saladin in the Third Crusade, which I enjoyed thoroughly in spite of some obvious biases and liberties taken throughout the volume. I found Madden’s work similarly satisfactory – though again leaving me with a feeling that I read material written from a specific direction and implying certain things I, as a amateur, am not qualified to comment upon.
The two works may be complementary, in that Madden and Reston Jr. seem to be coming from somewhat opposing perspectives, enough so that Madden specifically calls out Reston Jr.’s work as “simply retell[ing] a story that crusade historians have long ago discarded.” (pg. 217)
The features of the book which I enjoyed the most where its fluid narrative which maintained a good level of readability while addressing complex situations spanning hundreds of years. The book also includes some beautifully clear (black and white) maps of the crusades which are extremely helpful, in my opinion, in understanding where everything occurred.
What disappointed me in the work is that Madden seems to be trying to provide some social commentary on contemporary Christian/Islamic relations but fails to do so clearly enough. I can infer his meaning, as others have done – but I would have liked such an analysis to have been more thorough or abandoned completely.
I looked at several reviews of the work to ensure it wasn’t overly biased, and it appears that it falls within acceptable boundaries of diversity in opinion among scholars. I’ve included links to those reviews below.
- Shirin Khanmohamadi. Review found in The Medieval Review 07.10.30. Indiana University.
- Sanjeev A. Rao, Jr. Book Review, World History Connected. University of Illinois.
- Patrick J. Holt. Review of Madden, Thomas F., A Concise History of the Crusades. H-Catholic, H-New Reviews. May, 2000.
- Bradley Cochran. Book Review: The New Concise History of the Crusades by Thomas F. Madden. Theo-Philogue, 02/08/2010.