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Over the last five decades, Jonathan Riley-Smith has revolutionized--or, more appropriately, counter-revolutionized--the historical study of The Crusades by demonstrating that they were not driven by avarice, greed, and imperialism but instead by piety, religious enthusiasm, a sense of duty, and a genuinely fervent desire to liberate the Holy Lands and return them to Christian hands. Moreover, he showed that, far from enriching themselves, the Crusaders suffered real personal expense and hardship in order to pursue what they saw as the will of God in what he refers to as "penitential warfare." From what I've been able to find on-line, it appears that even most who are most reluctant to let the Crusaders and Christianity off the hook have come to accept the validity of his view.

In these lectures, Mr. Riley-Smith provides a nice short rehearsal of his basic arguments in this regard. He then moves on to a discussion of how Enlightenment opponents of Christianity, Romantic authors klike Sir Walter Scott, and anti-Imperialists of the late 19th century produced the historically warped version of the Crusades that came to be all too widely accepted in the West and that, tragically, was then adopted by Islamic jihadis to fuel hatred of Chistendom. In effect, many of the resentments of al Qaeda owe nothing to the actual history of the interaction of Christianity and Islam in the Holy Lands and everything to the misrepresentations of, if not outright lies about, that history that have been propounded in the West.

This slender book is a splendid corrective to the malignant view of the Crusades that remains a part of popular culture--like Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven--and a compelling rebuttal to those who claim that "they hate us" because of our own past actions. It's a must read.


Grade: (A+)


Jonathan Riley-Smith Links:

    -BIO: Jonathan Riley-Smith (Crusades-Encyclopedia )
    -BIO: Jonathan Riley-Smith (Wikipedia)
    -FILMOGRAPHY: Jonathan Riley-Smith (IMDB)
    -FOUNDER: Society for the Study of the Crusades and the Latin East
    -BOOK SITE: The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Columbia University Press)
    -The 35th Bampton Lectures in America: Crusades as Christian Holy Wars (Jonathan Riley-Smith, October 09, 2007, Columbia University)
    -INTERVIEW: Extended interview 1: Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith on the development of the Templar order. (On the Trail of the Templars, BBC Radio 4)
   -ESSAY: How Islamists Use the Crusades (Jonathan Riley-Smith, 12/15/08, History News Network)
    -ESSAY: Truth is the First Victim: Kingdom of Heaven has got it dramatically wrong, according to a professor of Ecclesiastical History at Cambridge (Jonathan Riley-Smith, May 5, 2005, Times of London)
    -ESSAY: Jihad Crusaders: What an Osama bin Laden means by "crusade." (Jonathan Riley-Smith, 1/05/04, National Review)
    -ESSAY: Religious Warriors: Reinterpreting the Crusades (Dr. Jonathan Riley-Smith, , December 23, 1995 , The Economist)
    -Two ways of presenting a Crusade: Jonathan Riley-Smith > The Crusades: A Short History (Cambridge University)
    -ESSAY: Rethinking the Crusades (Jonathan Riley Smith, March 2000, First Things)
    -ESSAY: 900 Years of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (Jonathan Riley Smith, November 1999, History Today)
    -ESSAY: Reading History: The Crusades (Jonathon Riley-Smith, April 1982, History Today)
    -INTERVIEW: Holy Violence Then and Now: A historian looks at the causes and lingering effects of Christian warfare (An interview with Jonathan Riley-Smith, October 1, 1993, Christian History)
    -INTERVIEW: Ridley Scott's new Crusades film 'panders to Osama bin Laden' (Charlotte Edwardes, 17 Jan 2004, Daily Telegraph)
    -REVIEW: of The Cathars by Malcolm Barber (Jonathan Riley-Smith, Times Higher Education)
    -REVIEW: of Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Matthew Gabriele , Modern Medieval)
    -REVIEW: of The Crusades, Christianity, and Islam (Melissa Snell,
    -REVIEW: of The Crusades: A History; Second Edition, by Jonathan Riley-Smith (Austin Cline,
    -REVIEW: of The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades by Jonathan Riley-Smith (Timothy May, HistoryNet)
    -REVIEW: of The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading: A Short History, by Jonathan Riley-Smith (Hunter Lappen, The College of Charleston )
    -REVIEW: of The First Crusade and the Idea of Crusading (Dr Anthony McRoy, NABA)

Book-related and General Links:
-ESSAY: The Real History of the Crusades (Thomas F. Madden, 4/01/02, Inside Catholic)