Thursday, 17 July 2014

Historical Book Review : Aspects of the Crusades by J.J Saunders

As I enjoy reading History books, I thought it would be a good idea to start to review some of the books I have read. The first book I shall review is J.J Saunders' Aspects of the Crusades. 



Essentially, the book is a collection of essays regarding, as the title suggests, various aspects of the crusades, many of these aspects not frequently covered and so an interesting read is created. However, it is also short at only 80 pages, with around 60 of these being part of the main content and over 10 of these being notes. Saunders makes a point in the book itself that it is not just from a Western viewpoint and takes into account material regarding the Arab point of view. In order to display the wide range of topics covered to a worthy level, I shall list the chapters below:

  1. The Literature of the Crusades
  2. The Idea of a Holy War
  3. The Role of the Assassins
  4. The Significance of Egypt
  5. The Armenian Ally
  6. The Franks and the Mongols
  7. The Passing of the Near Eastern Civilisation

Many of the topics covered are interesting, but also it is often difficult to find information on these topics and so the book is indeed enlightening in rarely covered areas. For the common reader, it may be difficult to find material anywhere else in such detail on these 'aspects' and so if you have a particular interest in several or perhaps one of these topics I would strongly recommend it. The book is also highly readable and should not be difficult to swallow, although a basic knowledge of the Crusades is probably required due to the specific nature of the essays. My favourite essays were probably, the ones relating to Egypt, the Assassins, the Armenians and The Franks and the Mongols. In particular, the chapter on the Armenians was very insightful. I must profess that I discovered this book through a sample chapter on the significance of Egypt, which was most helpful  for writing an essay for my AS History course. This sample is legitimately available at , as you may have inferred it was this sample that also encouraged me to purchase the full book. I will not spoil the sample chapter's theory on Egypt, as you will be amazed by how significant Egypt was in terms of the Crusades.

Alas, as with any book some parts do not match the greatness of others, though in this instance I suggest it is down to personal opinion. Although, some of the other chapters are indeed good, they are not as interesting as the others. As I have mentioned this no fault of the author, it is just down to my personal tastes. For some reason, when I bought the book ( having looked at the essay titles beforehand) I thought the essay on The Literature of the Crusades would be somewhat different for some reason ( possibly just expecting information on fiction, such as poetry).


I would thoroughly recommend this book, but I should note that it is not the simplest book to receive. I personally, bought it on AbeBooks and I would suggest it would be very hard if not impossible to gain a new copy of the book. As you may have noticed the image of the book is not to a great standard for a review, this is due to the difficulty of finding an image of the book on the internet. You should also consider that you are buying a very short book, that will probably be second hand, for a price which is quite hefty for the quanitity. In this instance, I would suggest that it is quality not quantity that matters and if you are really interested in purchasing the book, then you should buy it. However, look around for the best price, it was quite a lot cheaper on AbeBooks compared to Amazon, despite both offering only used copies.

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