Friday, 4 May 2018

The Crusader Armies

Before anyone reads or writes another book about the Crusades they should read Steve Tibble's The Crusader Armies.

I was asked by Yale University Press to read the book in proof and offer comments in advance of publication this coming July.  I found it exciting and refreshing.  

For one thing it overturns the tired old prejudices that the West was the aggressor, that events were driven by religious fanatics, and draws a broader, more profound and complex picture of events - but always readable.  

Tibble presents the latest scholarly and archaeological research, much of which has not yet entered the public consciousness (nor a good deal of academic thinking) , to make his case that climate change on the Asian steppes drove the mass migration of nomadic horsemen who created havoc among the settled peoples of the Middle East, Christian and Muslim alike.  This and not religion nor Western intervention was the determining factor behind the crusades.

It affected strategy, tactics and the composition of armies - with often Muslims and Christians fighting as allies or even within one another's ranks.  

It also affected the outcome.  Ultimate victory went to those who could draw on the greatest reserves of nomads, which favoured the Muslims in the East who had Turkic nomads moving into their hinterlands.  But that was not the case in the West where Portugal, Spain and France were saved for Europe.