Authoritative – adj. “having or showing impressive knowledge about a subject”

Asbridge’s ‘authoritative history’ of the Crusades certainly does this. It is a very extensive look at the period in a single volume. There are problems; I think there is still not enough examination of what was going on in the Muslim world around the Crusader States, and the role of Byzantium in the area is barely touched on most of the time. But, neither are these absent.

In fact, the role of Byzantine cooperation with the First Crusade is examined in some detail; it is only later that they drop too far off the stage. Also, the role of jihad (or even the existence of it) is meditated upon at length in the middle of the book, especially in relation to rooting out how much of Saladin’s actions matched his propaganda as a mujahid. Indeed, one of the primary goals of the book is to try and ‘correct’ certain long-held traditions, notably around just how much animosity existed around Outremer with relation to Byzantium and the surrounding Muslims.

I have to note that despite this detailed study, I was disappointed with losing a lot of details that I’m used to. This is because I’m used to Runciman’s three-volume A History of the Crusades. One volume can’t really compete with three (though they are individually smaller than this one), but the ‘authoritative’ tag made me instantly want to compare them.

As a one-volume history, it is very good, but it does not replace Runciman’s history, and while the parts that do re-evaluate the Crusades are a nice companion to it, it is too extensive just for that.