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The Crusades are ancient history, which feels as though it's repeating itself these days. Ever wonder how history will judge the latest 'coalition against terrorism'? The battle of the religions may now be cloaking more mundane economic factors (like oil production), but in this respect we are merely echoing the Crusades again. All of this sounds deadly earnest, (which it is), but this book manages to put things over with a real combination of good humour, understatement and telling analysis. The humour's the thing that grabs you the most. Terry Jones is better known as one of the Monty Python team, but his post-Python projects have been worth checking out too. Here he and his co-author cover quite a wide range of material, so it's fairly light at times. Some of the quick biogs of the main villains are pretty good, and there's no doubt that they've done their homework. If one of the aims of the book is to make you want to find out more than it succeeds admirably. I didn't catch the TV series on which the book is based, but somehoe I didn't feel that this was important. This isn't just the book of the TV series, it stands alone as a fine bit of populist historical writing. Read it. I swear you've not read any history book like it...
History is not, as Ford so famously asserted, Bunk. This book proves Ford wrong again. I bought it when told to do a project on the Crusades at school around four years ago. Back then, I thought the Crusades were little more than a map of wiggly arrows in a book. However, Jones and Ereira's work has turned me into a great enthusiast of this great period. From the beginning I found this book to be a great and thoroughly absorbing read. There are plenty of facts, yet not too many to bowl over the uninitiated; and since this is closely related to the BBC TV series of the same name, it is pretty much aimed at the novice. Also, it is very well written - a rare treat in any serious history book. There are some sections which are genuinely funny and much of the dialogue reeks of Monty Python. With these credentials, the book takes the reader on a wide-ranging and interesting tour of the crusades, from the battle of Manzikert in 1071 through to the final destruction of the crusader capital of Acre in 1291. After reading this book I was suitably inspired to go off and read more about the crusade; are there many books which can do this? On me, perhaps, but I'm sure that others will be the same. There are few major problems with this book. I would say that, having read up more since, that it loses much of its depth by trying to cover so huge a subject. Many important events and facts are merely glossed over, although a long bibliography at the end does encourage further research. Also, I couldn't help feeling that the book came to rather a swift conclusion, that everything after around 1192 was rather neglected. However, as I have said this is clearly meant as more of an introduction than a be-all and end-all of crusading history.
I bought this book because I love Terry Jones (purely platonic you understand), I loved the TV programme and I like a bit of History. However, I was a little disppointed. Don't get me wrong, this book is good. But the name "Terry Jones" on the cover makes you think that it is going to be side splittingly funny and it isn't. I know that Tel takes his History seriously, he has written on Chaucer afterall and there is no reason why he can't write a serious book. Not that the book doesn't have humor in it. It is readible and informative, but if you're after Python (that really must piss Tez off by now, when people like me can't take anything he does seriously) and aren't interested in religious zealots kicking ten bells out of each other because some egotistical, despotic pope guy tells them to, then look elsewhere.