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The book will be welcome for tackling the Crusades from a fresh but important angle; the relations of the Crusader states with their neighbours, both Christian (the Byzantines) and, especially, Islamic â€“ the rulers of Damascus, Aleppo, Baghdad, Cairo etc. It contributes to the very fashionable approach of seeing the Crusades as a prime example of early European colonialism, and investigating them much more for their social, political and ethnic impact on the region than for their ostensible ideological and religious motives. Holt uses original Arabic sources, which are generally difficult for Western historians, and therefore this book is an important addition to literature about the Crusades.
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Following the First Crusade, four states were founded in the Holy Land by the countries of Western Christendom. Broadly under French influence, these states came under increasing pressure as the forces of Islam rallied and regrouped, this pressure precipitating the Second and Third Crusades. Although the Crusader states were never powerful in themselves, they had a significance that was out of all proportion to their size for Medieval Christendom at large, providing a focal point for the crusading impulse from the West.
The Crusader states altered very rapidly after their foundation. They became involved in local politics and the management of violent and difficult relations with both their Muslim neighbours and the Christian Orthodox Byzantine Empire, which often appeared to be the greater enemy. P.M. Holt demonstrates how the Crusader states used divisions amongst their Muslim neighbours for their own benefit, and how they reacted to the perceived threat from the Byzantine Empire.
Holt moves away from traditional narratives of the crusades which focus in detail on the crusader states and their internal dynamics, and examines instead the relations of the Crusader states with their neighbours. These external relations with neighbours both Christian and Islamic ¿ including the rulers of Damascus, Aleppo, Baghdad and Cairo - represent a neglected topic which this study explores in an accessible manner, whilst making full use of Arabic source material.
Holt¿s investigation of the Crusader states¿ political, social and economic impact in the region represent a fresh new perspective that all scholars and readers of Medieval history need to read.
P.M. Holt was formerly Professor of the History of the Near and Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His previous publications include The Age of the Crusades (1986) and The Memoirs of A Syrian Prince (1983).About the Author:
P.M. Holt was formerly Professor of the History of the Near and Middle East at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His previous publications include The Age of the Crusades and the Memoirs of a Syrian Prince.
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