Despite the title, this is not a how-to book on how to get your own Crusade going. It’s actually a scholarly look at how the planning of the actual Crusades worked. Tyerman identifies broad subjects in planning and looks at each one in turn, discussing what it would have taken to get a crusade to happen at all, and pointing out where we can see those in action in the actual records.

As such, this is not a book for someone unfamiliar with the crusades as a whole. Tyerman discusses all the major Crusades, including the Baltic Crusades and the Albegensian Crusade simultaneously, and without some background in the subject you will be lost.

However, for someone who is familiar with this period, at least in outline, this book is a great supplement to that knowledge. He starts at the basic foundations, ‘reason’, and how the common popular notion of the Middle Ages as an age of unreason simply doesn’t work, and points up that just because the premises and priorities may be different from what we’re used to doesn’t mean that people did not still reason things out.

He builds from here, looking at how the case for war in the Middle East was worked out, how it was promoted and recruited for. How it was all paid for, how plans were laid and coordinated. Supplies were gathered, and successful or not, plans were reviewed to see how it could go better next time.

There were some very interesting points around shipping during the book. Naturally, technology and technique did improve over this period, and one of the major advantages the Crusades for the Middle East had was that Europe was largely back to dominating the Mediterranean at this point. However, Crusades largely went by land until the development of ships that could carry horses, at which point we see Richard I (and others) proceeding to the Levant by ship.

He ends with a look at strategic planning, which ends up circling around to near the beginning of the book. With the end of the Kingdom of Jerusalem after the Third Crusade, some serious reexaminations were made, in which Egypt, and its wealth, are clearly recognized as the key to the entire enterprise (to be fair, this had been noticed even during the First Crusade), and you start seeing the goal for further crusades shift over there. But that brings into question the initial motives for going in the first place. The idea was to hold and control what was seen as the religious center of the world, but if that’s so unimportant as to let Egypt take center stage in planning… it’s part of why the Crusades become less and less popular after that time.

And that effectively wraps up a very interesting look at the process Europe went through, and the innovations that were brought by the stresses of attempting the enterprise. Recommended for anyone who’s willing to give some thought to processes involved, but it does not present ‘history’ as you’d normally think of it.