Essay title: Thomas Madden: The New Concise History of The Crusades
First of all, we can underline how Madden emphasizes the fact that the Crusades were driven by religious reasons: â€œA crusade army was a curious mix of rich and poor, saints and sinners, motivated by every kind of pious and selfish desire, yet it could not have come into being without the pious idealism that led men to risk all to liberate the lands of Christâ€ (Madden, 13). The First Crusade occurred after Pope Urban II preached a sermon to liberate Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Madden expresses regrets about what he calls a â€œmistaken viewâ€, that says that â€œreligion was not an impetus but a diversionâ€ (11). He definitely assumes a point of view that is different from other popular works.
His efforts to contextualize the medieval Crusades are efficient, and he gives a lot of details about it. Thus, he explains the motivations of those who made sacrifices, for Christ, but also for the culture of nobility, which was a paramount element back in the eleventh century. Religion does not only include the love that people can have to God, but was also part of their life and culture, that means fighting to defend their churches would, by the same time, defend their own world and marks. Anyway, we have to add that motivations were sometimes different, and Madden do not forget to explain that. For example, he talks about the massacre of the Jews that was committed during the First Crusade.
He explains that the penury was the origin of this massacre, along with the fact that Jews were â€œresponsible for the Crucifixionâ€ (19), that means they are also the enemies of Christians. Religious doctrines of western Christianity were unique, and were driven, of course, by the faith. A good example of that strong faith is the feeling Christians had whether they won or not. When a Crusade was successful, people would thank God for bringing them victory. When a Crusade failed, for instance the Second Crusade, which was a disaster, Saint Bernard quoted the Old Testament to explain that â€œThe armies of Christendom failed because of the sins of Europeâ€, and that â€œEurope must purify itselfâ€ (61). In other words, the pope or the leaders who drove the Crusade to a disaster were not at fault.Another relevant element that Madden brings is his ability to incorporate details, even if it is a concise history of the Crusades, without losing sight of his solidly constructed chronological framework.
For example, the reality of the war at this time is exposed. He explains that â€œsome soldiers turned to cannibalismâ€ (27), due to hunger, starvation and disease that descended on the soldiers. Numerous details of this kind are present in the book, and dissuade the reader to think that the Crusades could have only been utopian reconquests: they were first violent and bloody wars. Madden also identifies and presents several important figures of the Middle Ages, and those who had a great influence during the Crusades.
The lives and the personalities of these characters are described, and help the reader to understand the decisions that were made, and how some situations happened. Several maps also accompany the reader through the different steps of the Crusades, and have a positive impact for the understanding.However, Maddenâ€™s study of the Crusades.