HTML> Book Review - The Sword and the Scimitar.

The Sword and the Scimitar.
by Ernle Bradford Published by Pen & Sword

Book Review.

The Sword and the Scimitar, provides a useful primer on the history of the Crusades. The text is very easy to follow, and covers the subject reasonably well given the modest size of the book.

The Chapter headings are;
1. Shrines and Pilgrims.
2 Thunder in the East.
3 Preaching the Crusade.
4 People and Princes.
5 The Road to Jerusalem.
6 The Spear of Antioch.
7 Jerusalem.
8 The Problems of Success.
9 Weapons of Victory.
10 The Kingdom.
11 Failure in the East.
12 The Military Orders.
13 The Moslem Tide. 
14 Aftermath.
15 Acre and After.
16 The Rape of Byzantium.
17 The Children's Crusade.
18 Failure in Egypt.
19 Success at Last.
20 Dissensions.
21 Mongols and Turks.
22 The Fall of Acre.
23 After the Sunset. 
 


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An Index is supplied as well as a useful Bibliography. The illustrations are Maps of the Crusades pages vi & vii, and 16 pages of grey scale prints on glossy paper.

I began reading about the Crusades some ten years ago, starting with the three volumes of Sir Steven Runiman's classic "A History of the Crusades". These volumes combined had in excess of some 1,350 pages to wade through, finding that I had to makes notes as I read, so that I would not be lost in the detail. Since then I have read a number of slimmer volumes such as those by Oldenbourg, Nicolle, Payne, and a few others now out of print. There are many more slim volumes now available and reasonably priced. Why choose, Erne Bradford's version?

First, the book was very readable (some useful books can be hard work), and provides the reader not only with a text covering the history, but with the provision a few chapters which provide necessary background details, such as the first chapter on the pilgrimage movement, another on the problems caused by success (eighth chapter), and a further one on weaponry (ninth chapter).
Second, I found the book covered the subject and history well, despite its succinct and modest 192 pages. In terms of providing an insight into the subject, it compared well with my reading of the three tomes by Runiman. In fact it engaged me in the same way, of thinking what stupid decisions and actions were made by the Christian leaders, causing the ultimate failure of the Crusading movement, and the loss of the Holy Land. An echo of this is found in some of the opening words of chapter eight. The Crusaders having gained Jerusalem, thought that all their problems had vanished, whereas they were just beginning. Hindsight of course is a wonderful tool! Perhaps the only comment of Ernle Bradford's I would question, is after he notes that having gained Jerusalem "it seemed ... all problems would vanish". A new line is begun; "Men are less simple now" - I wonder? Perhaps the Americans and their allies thought that their problems had ended once Iraq had been conquered!

Anyone wishing to read a primer of the Crusades, either to provide an overall picture of the subject, or to be a valuable starting point for further reading, this book is a must. I have found the book to be of service as a quick reference work as the main characters of the story can all be located quickly in the Index.

The Reverend Dr Michael Foster.
Rector Chase Benefice, Salisbury Diocese, Church of England.


Created 12th December 2004
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